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.