The seniors I talked with came to philanthropy through many different backgrounds. Most learned philanthropy from parents who took their community and philanthropic responsibilities very seriously. Many joined their family’s foundation board at a fairly young age, but didn’t necessarily have a voice. One said, “We were simply told we were going to be on the board. Our role was to shut up and listen for a long while.”

Their parents had a strong influence on their understanding of philanthropy and its value in their lives:

  • I lived at home for four years after college. My father was an insomniac and would sit up at night and talk about all the organizations in town, what they needed, how they worked.
  • I trace my interest in nonprofit work to my mother who was very involved in charitable activities in our community... growing up she was always out and about volunteering, serving on boards, and playing other leadership roles.
  • My father was motivated by his Catholic faith: we are all connected and responsible for each other.
    I grew up with a mother who immigrated to this country and brought with her those Old World values as well as a gratefulness and a responsibility to return to our society what they could because of what they received here.

A number of these seniors had the luxury of spending most of their time on philanthropy or volunteer work. Others had active careers.

Their stories fall into four categories of approaches to how they planned their own as well as their family’s philanthropic futures:

  • Senior generation members who chose to stay actively involved in leading the family’s foundation.
  • Seniors who passed on leadership but stayed active in the foundation.
  • Seniors who focused more on their personal or immediate family’s philanthropy
  • Seniors who moved entirely out of the family’s foundation work and on to other or new activities.

Read the full article about planning for your future by Alice Buhl at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.