Multi-generational values

Imagine a time when your grandparents, parents and yourself are having disagreements about money. OK, that may be imaginable. . .

Now imagine you, your parents and dear grandparents disagreeing on which organizations you will support through a family Foundation. Believe it or not, it is happening. With the transfer of wealth being the most significant in the history of mankind, many more families are creating their own Foundations. That often means the grandparents started it, the parents serve on the Board, and now the young adults are getting involved.

The reality is individuals within families have different interests.  If a family Foundation has traditionally supported the work of alma-matter universities, hospitals and animal shelters, the next generation may not be interested or inspired. Perhaps the interests of the younger family members are putting an end to open-pen fish farming or building schools in developing countries.

Differences of opinion on where family funds are spent can be better understood when the various individuals are able to identify their core values. It is easier, once identified, to see where there is alignment in values, and how those core values help to define philanthropic decisions.

Family members may be surprised to see that the values overlap, but that each person applies them in a different way. Three generations bring their generational lens to the table, and when a thoughtful discussion ensues, the outcome may be shifting collective philanthropic decisions.

This is true as well for generational gifts at Valley Regional Hospital Foundation. Often we see families whose grandparents, parents and adult children are donors. Recently, we had a very thoughtful gift from a four year-old who decided to collect money on his birthday to make a donation. These types of gifts don’t come from family Foundations, but they do come from a sharing of values.

Parents of young children do often teach of giving, encouraging children to put 10% into the giving jar when they receive their allowance, as well as planning for short, medium and long-term age appropriate goals with the balance. When the giving jar builds equity, a family discussion follows to determine where the funds may have a positive impact in the community. Building such a giving culture within the family is not only for the wealthy. Conversations around giving, regardless of the amount, are important values-sharing and learning opportunities throughout life.

Likewise, charitable legacy gifts made through a will or insurance are decisions that may or may not impact multi-generations. Thoughtful discussion of legacy wishes with grown family members by expressing the values that underlie that decision has the potential to reduce tensions, misunderstanding and potential disagreements in the future. From family Foundations to family legacy gifts, the greatest gift is in understanding multi-generational values.