The Bridgespan Group

Are you planning on involving your spouse, children, grandchildren, or other family members in your philanthropy? Or has your family given generously for years, and you are seeking a way to honor this legacy while making your mark? Family philanthropy can be joyful and fulfilling, but it also introduces complexity. You can’t expect to please everyone all the time, especially while making the decisions required to get real results with your philanthropy. But done thoughtfully, philanthropy can be a wonderful way to bring your loved ones together and make real progress against a common cause.

If you are beginning to think through your goals for family philanthropy, a few initial questions to consider include:

What values and beliefs will guide our philanthropy?

Defining what the touchstones will be for your family's giving is a critical first step - whether that means interpreting the wishes of another generation for today's reality or kicking your family's philanthropy off with clarity.

Who is or will be involved in our family philanthropy?

Will you choose a small circle of intimate family, or open it up more broadly? How will you involve staff members (family or non-family)? How do you think about rotating or making changes to responsibilities over time?

How will we work together?

The combination of donor, spouse, and adult children (including, perhaps, their spouses) creates a group often better suited for holiday gatherings than serious decision making. How will you resolve differences?

Case Studies

Wondering how to make your family's legacy your own? Or are you a benefactor figuring out how to engage your children or grandchildren in your philanthropy? Philanthropic families have found many ways to make it work through generations.

Deeper Dives