What is your family’s philanthropic approach?

Sid Queler

November 24, 2021

Philanthropy is a wonderful way for families to share values and beliefs with the next generation.

Philanthropy is powerful. Think of the neighborhood association scholarship that made college more affordable for a graduating high school senior or the handyman ministry that keeps your elderly neighbor in her home. All of these make your community a vibrant place to live, and they are made possible by generous donations. 

Often, charitable gifts benefit the world beyond our communities. Charles Feeney, founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies and advocate of “Giving While Living,” distributed $8 billion in grants during his lifetime. He made big bets on big causes, like bringing peace to Northern Ireland, modernizing Vietnam’s health care system, and improving brain health around the world. 

Giving can shape the values and views of younger generations

Few people give on the scale that Feeney did, but many find that charitable giving provides opportunities to express ideals and beliefs, build legacies, and bond with younger family members.  Those who make giving a family affair find opportunities to:

  • Shape the views, values and beliefs of the next generation
  • Communicate the responsibilities of wealth stewardship
  • Normalize conversations about money

One of the keys to successfully communicating values and beliefs is engagement. There are many ways to initiate thoughtful conversations with younger family members. For example, depending on the age of the family members, you could:

  1. Ask thought-provoking questions. Find opportunities to ask questions that encourage discussions about money and giving. You might ask:
  • What would you do if you won a million dollars?
  • If you could change the world, how would you do it?
  • If you could help someone, what would you do?
  • If you could make a rule and everyone would have to follow it, what would it be?

Listen thoughtfully to all answers and be prepared to share your  own.

  1. Apportion allowances. If you give your children or grandchildren allowances, designate specific amounts for spending, saving, investing, and giving. Talk with the recipients about how much should be set aside for each purpose. Then, once a year, help them invest the amount earmarked for investing and donate the amount accumulated for giving. Deciding where the money should go opens the door to discussions about values, investing, stewardship, and other important issues.

Coach children and young adults through the process of choosing investments and causes that are meaningful to them. When teaching very young children about giving, it can be helpful to relate the concept to ideas they understand. Perhaps you talk about giving money to support: the museum with the dinosaur exhibit, the animal rescue or shelter where you found your pet or the library they visit for story time. 

As children grow older, encourage them to the lead the process and think about how they will know whether their donation has achieved what they hoped it would. Giving is important, and so are results. Older children may not always invest or donate wisely, but sometimes people learn more from mistakes than they do from successes.

  1. Establish a giving tradition. There are as many ways to create family traditions. Some families donate time, skills and services to nonprofit organizations. Others participate in events that raise money for causes, and many have giving strategies that define their philanthropic objectives and approach to achieving them. 

Philanthropy is an important component of the wealth planning process. Families that engage their younger members and define what wealth really means to them tend to have more success preserving wealth from generation to generation and creating an enduring legacy.

Learn more

People choose to give for many reasons—personal fulfillment, legacy planning and tax management—and they employ a variety of charitable trusts and funds to reach their goals. To learn more about effective philanthropy, or for help determining or developing your gifting goals, contact me at or 617.531.6954. You can also learn more by listening to our podcasts series or by reading our Effective Philanthropy content. 

Sidney F. Queler is the chief growth officer of CIBC Private Wealth, US. In this role, he leads the firm’s business development team, setting strategies and practices that broaden relationships with individuals, families, foundations and endowments. Sid also serves as a member of the CIBC Private Wealth US Operating Committee and as a member of the advisory team for the firm's Boston office. In addition to leading national business development, he remains actively involved with client relationships.