Four steps to stronger family philanthropy

A woman stares into the distance.

Here's help to uncover your shared values to do more good—together.

Determining your family’s shared values can go a long way toward making your philanthropic efforts succeed. After all, by uncovering and agreeing on a collective set of values, you can:

  • Promote interfamily communication
  • Avoid potential conflicts
  • Arrive at a decisive direction for your philanthropic endeavors

Here, Beth Renner, Head of the Advice Center within Wealth & Investment Management at Wells Fargo, offers four steps to kick start a conversation with your family that can help you uncover, and act on, your shared values.

1. Talk about your values first

It’s natural to go right to “What are we going to fund?” but starting the conversation at a higher level may help head off disagreements early on.

Ask each member of the family to share which philanthropic values they consider most important—for example, justice, empowerment, spirituality, or sustainability. Also have each person share the charities they’ve given to in the past, what challenges they want to address, and what motivates them to give.

After everyone has shared, you will likely see some common values and goals. “Once your family becomes really grounded in what your values are, we can use that to build an intentional giving plan to help make those values come to life in your philanthropy,” Renner says.

2. Explore family philanthropy strategies

There are many different avenues for giving to charity, and it can take time to decide which ones will work for your family. Ask questions to stimulate conversation and help members of each generation to see alternative points of view. Sample questions include:

  • Which is more important to you: to support organizations you know, or causes you care about? Why?
  • How involved do you want to be? Why?
  • Do you believe in giving publicly or anonymously? Why?

3. Decide on your areas of funding

Talk to your team at Wells Fargo Private Bank about building a giving plan that keeps in mind the values and giving strategies your family agreed upon. Along with providing a list of specific areas of funding to choose from, your philanthropic specialist can also help choose charities that align with your plan. Make the financials of each charity available to family members who may want to review them.

4. Incorporate the needs of all generations

As you continue to develop your family’s intentional giving plan, make sure each generation’s needs are being met.

If the focus is education, for example, a baby boomer could choose to provide a grant to a local college for a library or research lab, creating both a tangible impact now and a visible long-term legacy with the family name on the building. A Gen Xer may want to launch a scholarship program that would pay for local students to attend college. And a millennial may offer to volunteer or tutor to have a more personal impact at a local school the family is supporting.

“By focusing on areas of funding that match your values, you can help build your legacy as a family,” says Renner.

Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company.

Wells Fargo & Company and its affiliates do not provide legal or tax advice. Please consult your legal and/or tax advisors to determine how this information may apply to your own situation. Whether any planned tax result is realized by you depends on the specific facts of your own situation at the time your tax return is filed.