Throughout my years as an adviser, one distinct thread running through family stories has been the practice of generosity. I’ve found that the way a family approaches charitable giving showcases its financial, personal and intellectual wealth and can truly define the family life story. This single aspect of a client’s planning can provide for connection and growth unlike any other.
Working with clients across generations on an intentional charitable plan involves having deep conversations about what money truly means to them and how to use it effectively. These discussions also forge new relationships with clients, and connect them with centers of influence and strategic partners. Finally, they allow clients to execute planning strategies that will endure for lifetimes.
FAMILY MONEY CONVERSATIONS
Recently, a client worried that the family’s younger generation didn’t understand their privilege and responsibility. This client wanted to find a way to talk about a commitment to their local community that would outlive them. Through conversations with the client’s children, we heard what was important to them, what they hoped to give back and what they planned for the future. They were passionate about helping at-risk children and families in their community experience safety and care, hoping to someday model this giving lifestyle to their own families.
The most memorable family money conversations I have been a part of have also involved finding opportunities for volunteerism. I firmly believe that spending time helping those who are less fortunate creates a sense of gratitude that doesn’t come from anywhere else.
From a planning perspective, there are many different ways to help clients with charitable giving or a multigenerational generosity plan. Some helpful strategies are leveraging our strategic relationships with development officers at colleges and nonprofit organizations, utilizing donor- advised funds and creating family foundations.
In one case, our client made a lifetime donation to an endowment created by the development officer of a large educational institution. The donation allowed the client to finance their specific interests. As part of that gift, the client is actively participating in the lives of the students — something that might not have happened without a strategic conversation with the development officer.
We have another subset of clients who are generous and want a current tax deduction, but need more time to put a deliberate charitable giving plan in place. Donor-advised funds have been an incredible resource that fit that “undecided” category. Many national funds, like Fidelity Charitable and Vanguard Charitable, provide simplicity and anonymity, which we’ve found can be important for clients who have large estates. For clients who have a heart for the local community but aren’t sure about the charity, we have forged relationships in community foundations as well.
Finally, for clients who wanted to be more hands on, we have used private family foundations. What is especially beneficial about this option is how tailored and personal it makes a charitable plan. Multiple generations get a chance to be involved in making the donation decisions, and it becomes a valuable moment for a family to connect.
Solidifying relationships with generations of clients’ families through philanthropic conversations is a rewarding and vital aspect of our practice, one that I hope all professionals will embrace.
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