A Legacy of Giving: Tips for Family Philanthropy

“Hi Nana and Grandpa,” the email began, “After some serious consideration, I would like to donate my $500 to the Ocean Conservancy.”

Nana and Grandpa, local residents who started a donor-advised fund when they moved to the area 14 years ago, were elated to receive the note from their oldest grandson. In response to their Christmas gift—a gift of giving—to all their grandchildren last year, the email went on to explain how their grandson decided where to invest the funds his grandparents offered to give on his behalf.

He explained, “It is one of the oldest and largest marine research and preservation charities in the world, founded in 1972. Not only does the Ocean Conservancy do significant work to clean our oceans and protect wildlife, they also have major initiatives to raise awareness about ocean related issues, particularly surrounding climate change’s impact on marine life and health.

Furthermore, they also actively partake in research concerning a wide variety of ocean related issues. I also looked into how well they spend their money on CharityNavigator.org, and they received one of the highest possible ratings.”

The joy of seeing grandchildren doing their research and paying it forward is a rich reward for a lifetime of service. Nana and Grandpa can’t quite put their finger on when they first knew giving back was important, but wherever they’ve been, they’ve always gotten involved in the community and given of their time and resources.

And they’ve passed that legacy on to their children and grandchildren, enjoying the thrill of seeing the whole family enthusiastic about sharing with others.

Their daughter says her parents always emphasized giving. “When you have a lot, you have a lot to give,” they taught her, and they’re still leading by example.

She and her husband started teaching their kids these same values when the now nearly adults were just four and six years of age. Their first “gift of giving” was one hundred dollars their parents gave them, with instructions to choose who they’d like to give it to.

The gift sparked conversation about how to invest limited funds for good causes. It was a thoughtful way for all the generations—grandparents, parents, and kids—to discuss what was most meaningful to them and then follow through with a viable contribution. Those conversations around the dinner table and decisions made together through the years have laid the foundation for a giving home.

Teaching their children and grandchildren to live generously is this family’s strategy for overcoming one of the greatest challenges facing communities today: lack of involvement. They point out only 15 percent of people typically reach out through volunteering, but the solution for our neighborhoods lies with each of us.

“When we come together, we’re a safety net.” Without that net, too many fall through the cracks, often missing out on basic needs—food, clothing, and shelter—while others have seemingly endless opportunity.

The family sees these discrepancies as another significant challenge facing local communities. Through the years, they’ve witnessed “a lot of people who’ve had a hard time.” They’ve also been on the receiving end when “good people funded scholarships.”

The recognition of how they’ve benefited from others’ generosity fuels their own passion for generously helping others and teaching the next generation to do the same. They say getting the word out about existing disparities could be one of the simplest solutions to increasing involvement.

And they applaud Triangle Community Foundation for making it so easy to learn about existing needs. “It’s very helpful for doing background research on organizations and for preventing donations to questionable agencies.”

The option of a donor-advised fund also made it simple to involve the entire family in giving. When they moved to North Carolina, they didn’t know much about local needs but knew the community foundation would. The result of the partnership has been the joy of passing down a legacy of giving to future generations.

A note from grateful grandchildren to their grandparents says it all, “Again, thank you very much for this amazing gift. Not only is it important to give back, but researching all of these charities and seeing the amazing work they do gave me hope for the future…So thank you guys both so much…!”

In this couple’s opinon, there’s no better way to spend a life.

The fundholders in this story asked to remain anonymous. Curious about how you can incorporate giving back into your family values? Reach out to us! Email Treat Harvey at [email protected]