Charitably minded individuals invest a great deal of heart and purpose into their philanthropic giving plans.

And because giving means so much to them, they often wish to engage their adult children in creating a legacy of family giving.

Knowing where to start these conversations can be tricky, but knowing how to start—with patience and candor—can make philanthropy a family affair that lasts generations.

Setting the Stage

Before discussing charitable giving with children (and possibly grandchildren), charitably minded individuals and couples should first identify what they hope to convey.

Some people wish to share why they support the causes they support simply to inform their family. Others seek to inspire future generations to get involved in family giving or carve their own path. Still others want to expand and enrich their giving by tapping into the interests of their children or grandchildren.

No matter your purpose, it’s important to find the right time and place to hold these money conversations.

Assembling the Players

Whether your family meets in-person or virtually, you’ll want to be clear about the purpose of your gathering. Determine ahead of time what you hope to achieve—and communicate this to your family.

If your family regularly gets together, think about your traditions and when a conversation about giving might fit into your activities.

Many families find Thanksgiving, a holiday about gratitude, an ideal time to talk about philanthropy.

Writing Your Script

There are many ways to engage family members in a conversation about giving. Where you start and how you approach the conversation will depend on your goals and how much your family already knows about the charities and causes you support.

Here are some ideas for getting started.  

Share your story. Bring family up-to-date on the causes you support and why. If you support causes or organizations your parents or even grandparents supported, share this. This could be a natural foundation on which to establish a legacy of family giving.

Ask family members about their values. Encourage conversation around the organizations or causes important to your children. They may be drawn to causes you had not considered—and these new ideas could amplify the joy you get from giving while uniting your family around a common cause.

Develop a family mission statement. Strengthen family bonds and align thinking around giving by creating a family mission statement. While it will take some effort to boil down diverse thoughts and ideas into a few sentences, a clear mission statement can become the north star that guides your family’s legacy of giving.

Some examples: “Our family supports children for whom daily life is a struggle” or “We believe education is essential to creating a better tomorrow, so we support institutions of higher education that nurture entrepreneurs and leaders.”

Establish a framework for decisions. Should you choose to give as a family, discuss in advance whether everyone needs to agree on organizations and causes to support or whether family members can donate to any cause they wish. Disagreement doesn’t necessarily mean a disconnect. It can be a path to honoring divergent values through a shared heart for giving.

Closing Thoughts

Discussing values with younger generations—and living these values through philanthropy—can be a richly rewarding experience.

Be it animal welfare, medical research, or foundations for the arts, culture, and humanities, families who give with intent are connected to something bigger than themselves.

They are, as Churchill once said, making a living by what they get, but making a life by what they give.