What follows is a list of questions that families should ask when first exploring the possibility of a common philanthropic project. These can be addressed through personal reflection, a facilitated family workshop, or a dedicated family task force. Whatever process your family prefers, you will find it helpful to answer the questions in the ordered provided.

  1. Why should we give as a family? Whatever the reason, it is important to begin the strategic journey by asking your family members about their motivations for giving and seek alignment within the distribution of perspectives and opinions.
  2. Should we give collectively or individually? Since the decision to give collectively or individually will have profound legal and organizational implications, families should resist the temptation to dive into grantmaking until the benefits and risks of each approach have been sufficiently explored.
  3. What kind of impact do we expect? Whatever mission your family chooses to unite its philanthropic activities, be sure to discuss how success will be measured – in lives saved, students graduated, startups funded, and so forth.
  4. Should our philanthropic efforts be led by the family, the business, or both? Enterprising families need to ask themselves under what circumstances it makes sense for them to integrate their charitable efforts between their businesses, their foundation or donor-advised funds, and their individual discretionary giving.
  5. What governance architecture do we need? Enterprising families must design and launch the governance forums and processes that will allow them to efficiently govern and lead their philanthropic projects.
  6.  What risks might we face? Despite their best intentions, we strongly recommend that enterprising families educate themselves on the potential risks they face when pursuing meaningful social impact, and establish a culture of risk management within their governance bodies.

Read the full article about questions for families with philanthropic interest by  Devin DeCiantis, Neus Feliu, Ph.D. and Wendy R. Ulaszek, Ph.D. at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.