Are generous families and their advisors prepared for the future?

Generous families and business owners have many people serving as their advisors. They range from attorneys and wealth managers to the staff of community foundations and family foundations. Each brings a different perspective on the value and use of money and other assets.

But what those families and business owners are really seeking is help with finding meaning in their money. How can their resources be used effectively to pass on values to their heirs, benefit society, and even leave a legacy?

On these issues, U.S. Trust and Foundation Source reported in separate studies that families and business owners seek advice first from their peers. They’d like their advisors to help, but find that advisors either don’t discuss the issues or do so through a technical lens. Even foundation staff can become too focused on process and not enough on purpose.

Those families’ heirs are proving fully willing to leave their parents’ advisors, family offices, and even their foundation if they’re not finding compelling ways to connect money and meaning. Those younger generations are the face of trends challenging: 1) how families will come to a common definition of “community”; 2) how family members will work and volunteer together; and 3) how they’ll use their resources for social good.

To navigate those trends, families will need philanthropic tools that are resilient – able to anticipate and shape change and to bounce back after stress. They’ll need to re-examine issues of governance, leadership, participation, and strategy. Their advisors will need to ask different questions – ones that go beyond tax deductions and nonprofit effectiveness. Those advisors and foundation staffers need to help families navigate the collision of how families work and how philanthropic tools work (see graphic below) as both evolve in the 21st century.

Family philanthropy 2 systems


Fortunately, there are pioneers charting paths for us. They’re collecting their ideas through networks such as the National Center for Family Philanthropy and Purposeful Planning Institute, education providers such as the American College and 21/64, and free resources by experienced consulting firms such as The Philanthropic Initiative and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

I’ve been honored to speak about those trends and solutions for resilience for the Colorado Association of Funders, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, and Community Foundation of Elkhart County this year. I’ll be doing so for the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance in September and for the Florida Philanthropic Network next February.

Need to think about your philanthropic family’s journey through the trends and tools I’ve described? If you haven’t been able to make one of those sessions, I’d be happy to talk one-on-one. Feel free to contact me at tony [at] or 317.250.3805.