Millennials Take Charge of Family Philanthropy

Carol A. Sherman, Institute for Preparing Heirs

January 27, 2015

Philanthropy, no matter how large or small, is a powerful tool for bringing multi-generational families closer together. More than any generation that has come before them, Millennials—the so-called WE generation—are in a position to influence, and broaden, how their parents and even grandparents view giving.

Family philanthropy is not only for the wealthy, and more than 95 percent of U.S. households give to charity1. 61 percent of Millennials feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world2 and the internet and social networking have given rise to the age of global philanthropy, spawning a plethora of social, environmental, and other worthy causes—literally at a family’s fingertips!

Starting The Giving Conversation
Here are a few suggestions for philanthropic-minded families to get the conversation started:

  • Call a family meeting. Share what causes family members care about most and why. Be flexible and open to learning. Begin by asking: What have you given your time or resources to so far? What has excited you?
  • Plan a family involvement day where you do hands-on work and directly see the benefit. This might be local ‘clean up’, serve food at a shelter, or even participate in a fun run in support of a cause. Some families make annual site visits to the specific organizations in which they granted money. It is a great activity to see first hand what the organization does for people. The entire family looks forward to this each year.
  • Advocate, volunteer, and give in local communities to improve education, health, and other areas in need. Keep in mind that Millennials define “community” well beyond geographic boundaries.
  • Discuss possible joint charitable giving. Consider giving where the impact can be tracked such as a Kiva donation or student scholarship. Talk to your financial advisor for advice.

1 Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University

2 Cone Millennial Cause Study 2006