Giving Compass' Take:

• Multigenerational giving can be rewarding, but family dynamics can get complicated. With foresight and preparation, family foundations can avoid turmoil. 

• How can family foundations set appropriate boundaries to facilitate productive discussion? How can existing foundations revamp their guidelines to create smoother processes?

• Read the Family Philanthropy magazine on Giving Compass for more insights.

Challenge 1: Ownership and control 

Many families have a dominant wealth creator—often the person who controls the purse strings in the family’s giving. Subsequent generations may not feel empowered to spend a foundation’s endowment if they did not create the wealth.

At the beginning of multigenerational efforts, family members should decide who will be involved in the philanthropic giving, including children’s spouses and grandchildren, and who will have decision-making power. Once the parameters for participation are defined, it is important to discuss how decisions will be made.

Challenge 2: Interpersonal relationships 

Family dynamics are often quite complicated. Initiating family philanthropy with a stated philosophy of respect and an intent to collectively work for the common good can help set the appropriate tone. Preemptively establishing processes to handle conflict, encouraging open conversations, and creating an open forum for all voices will facilitate honest conversations.

Challenge 3: Fundamental differences in core beliefs, values, or politics

Family members often have vastly different beliefs, political leanings, and values. Families must critically examine values and priorities when starting to engage in multigenerational giving. In addition to asking about core values, families should discuss what they’re most passionate about funding and define the boundaries of what they refuse to fund.

Read the full article about multigenerational giving by Jennifer Wegbreit, Deborah Dauber, and Ali Sirkus Brody at Stanford Social Innovation Review.