Family Philanthropy

What is Family Philanthropy?
Why Involve Your Family?
How Can You Involve Your Family?

Guide to Giving


What is Family Philanthropy?

Philanthropy, defined as love of humankind, is the act of voluntarily giving and sharing with others to enrich lives, solve problems, and perpetuate the values of society and of the person making the gift.  Charitable giving offers you a unique opportunity to create a legacy for yourself, your family, and your Community.  A partnership with Hudson Community Foundation will help your family make a lasting impact while maximizing income, gift, and estate tax benefits.  Through Hudson Community Foundation you have access to legal, grant-making and gifting professionals.  On your recommendation we may engage your financial advisor in the management of your charitable assets.  Our experienced staff can guide you and your family toward your charitable objectives for both current and future giving.  Whether you are interested in giving to a single organization or to 20, we can help you make a difference in your community.

At its heart, family philanthropy reflects the interest and passions of family members.  It can become an activity, even a tradition that brings your family together in new ways.  Philanthropy is a reflection of each individual’s goals values, and beliefs.  Some people support causes that have touched them personally, others give to honor a loved one, and others hope to strengthen causes they believe in.  We at Hudson Community Foundation realize that sharing the very private process of charitable giving with your family is both challenging and rewarding.  Our purpose here is to offer you guidance, information, and examples of how to initiate and realize a philanthropic process that involves and engages your family.  To us, family philanthropy is about more than inviting and preparing your children or other family members to share in your charitable interests.  It includes learning about charitable opportunities and community issues together, volunteering at a charity that you care about, and making grants through your fund at the Foundation.  Only you can define who your family is.  It may include children, brothers, sisters, spouses, partners, nieces, nephews, grandparents, cousins, and grandchildren.  It also may include godchildren, friends, and other loved ones.

We are available to help you and your family get started and to guide you when necessary.  We are available to work with your  professional advisors.


Why Involve Your Family?

Family Matters

When considering whether family philanthropy is right for you, think carefully about your goals for including other family members.  Although there are other considerations, including investment, tax, and financial issues, the greatest question is whether you are ready as a family to begin working together on philanthropy.  Giving together requires energy and commitment to make the effort work.  Clarifying your motivations and goals should be your first step in establishing a structure and process that works for all of you.  Family philanthropy may be something that your family would like to explore if you are motivated to:

  • Work with other family members to make a difference in society.
  • Teach the responsibilities and opportunities of wealth-i.e., preparing children for future stewardship of your charitable assets.
  • Instill a culture of giving in the next generation.
  • Enhance your charitable giving by bringing in new energy and ideas.
  • Deepen family connections; collaborate, solve problems, and learn about critical social issues.
  • Establish and strengthen a family legacy of caring and sharing.
  • Build bridges between your family’s wealth and the outside world.

Family Philanthropy: Benefits and Opportunities

Families have discovered a variety of benefits through working together on their charitable giving.  Some feel a deepened connection from collaborating and cooperating on important social and community issues.  Others appreciate the opportunity to express and act on values that reflect the family’s strongest beliefs and interests.  Some families feel that their philanthropy creates a bond among generations, resulting in increased communication, sharing and understanding among family members of all ages.  Family philanthropy allows you to learn not only about your family members, but also about important community and social issues. It serves as forum for developing teamwork and problem solving skills within the family.  Your family’s charitable giving can nurture generosity and foster compassionate values in the next generation.


Family Philanthropy: Challenges

Involving your family in your philanthropy has many benefits, but is not without its challenges.  One common obstacle is geography.  Today’s family members are often widely separated, making group meetings difficult.  Family members are also inevitably at different stages of their lives.  While this can be a wonderfully positive factor-in terms of fresh perspectives –it can also result in a variety of distractions.  Careers, family, school, or social activity can prevent family members from devoting adequate time to the family philanthropy.  Finally, some families’ culture or dynamic is simply not conducive to working together.  If the family struggles with serious issues of parental control, independence needs, and family rivalries, a family philanthropy program may worsen the issues.  Most families, however, have the potential to truly enjoy the collaboration of giving together to issues and organizations that matter the most to them.  One of the keys to success is a good family process.

To begin developing a Family Process that works for your family, please refer to the suggested steps below.


How Can You Involve Your Family?

The Dynamics of Working Together

Remember group projects in school or at work?  Well that’s the idea behind family philanthropy, except you are working with siblings, children, and/or parents.  Family members must commit to cooperate.  For some the route is easy and natural.  For others, it may involve additional attention to deliberate steps, such as agreeing on ground rules.  Each family must choose a style of working together that suits its culture and the personalities and life stages of family members.  At its best, family philanthropy is a blend of your family’s ideals, creativity, skills, and passions.  Blending those characteristics together to establish meaningful and efficient philanthropy can be tricky.  There are several fundamental steps that will enable you to successfully navigate some of the inevitable bumps in the road as your family moves toward collective giving:

  • Articulate your family’s reasons for working together.
  • Invite family members to participate with an understanding that each is free to enter and leave the process; giving together should not become an obligation or burden.
  • Recognize that although you have individual interests, you have the overall good of the family in mind.
  • Assume that you all have something to learn from each other, no matter what the differences in age or experience.
  • Incorporate a sense of fun.
  • Understand your objectives and communicate them clearly (in an age-appropriate way).
  • Create a plan or method for handling differences.
  • Establish a decision-making process that fits the family’s style-it may involve agreeing to disagree on particular issues.
  • Divide labor within the family and determine whether staff or consultants are needed-find out what skills family members want to offer, or want to develop.
  • Build a timetable or schedule for making giving decisions-perhaps on a rolling basis, or at a few select times each year.


Identifying Values and Goals

To develop your family philanthropy process, you must first ask yourselves, “What do we want to accomplish with our giving?”  For example, do you want to make an impact on a few individuals, improve the ability of an organization to better serve the community, or are a fundamental change in society?  The best and most satisfying philanthropy is driven by your values, experiences, and traditions and focuses on the issue(s) you are passionate about.  Values are passed down through families and shaped through life experiences, memorable moments, and important people in your life.  To help you articulate and define your values, consider those people or life experiences that have been strong influences on you.  When you and your family define what you stand for, you can determine what kind of giver you want to be, and the kind of organizations and causes you wish to support.  This allows your family to link your giving to the community issues that are of greatest significance to you.



  • What are your basic values?
  • How have these values been expressed through your giving?
  • As donors and volunteers, why have you made gifts of money and time?
  • What have been your most significant gifts?
  • Do you know whether your efforts have made a difference?
  • Which of your gifts have given you the most satisfaction?  Why?
  • Which have given the least satisfaction?  Why?
  • What is your vision for a collaborative giving 3ffort within the family?
  • What would you like to accomplish in the larger world with your giving?
  • Are there family dynamics that you need to investigate before doing the actual work of giving together?
  • What skills do you need to draw on or develop to work together?
  • Is there agreement among the family members about what you should or should to do with your giving program?
  • If your family creates a common philanthropic agenda, what should be its guiding principles?


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