10 Strategies for Family Unity

Date: May 17 2016

Sara Hamilton, Founder & CEO, and Jane Flanagan, Director of Family Research

In putting together the FOX Guide to Family Education, we were able to identify a number of innovative strategies to enhance owner engagement and foster an ongoing education program for family members: 

1. Central Website for Family Communication

Successful families recognize the importance of keeping the family connected. Many rely on a family website as their communications hub for the family. This is where family members go to learn about the family history and the family tree, find out what their cousins are working on, access financial and trust documents and more. The FOX publication 50 Best Practices for an Enduring Family Enterprise illustrates some of the benefits of having a family website.

2. Family Newsletter to Build Engagement

Just as you rely on industry newsletters to keep you current on topics of interest, many families publish a family newsletter to keep the extended family informed. Families use this publication to share: family news, photos and takeaways from the last family meeting, calendar items such as birthdays, anniversaries and upcoming meetings. Some families also include success stories and interviews with family members to highlight interests and current projects as well as educational articles on investing, trusteeship, etc. The family newsletter is an important tool for keeping the family informed and connected.

3. Presentation of Family History

Video biographies help families record and preserve their legacy via their family stories for future generations. These videos provide the family members with a means of sharing, in their own words, important topics that are of interest to them—their family values, dreams for their children and grandchildren, lessons learned. The white paper, titled “Video Family Biographies: Bridging Generations and Preserving the Legacy”, outlines the merits of commissioning a video family biography to help protect and preserve the family legacy.

4. Owner Education Committee

“We will only conserve what we love.

We will only love what we understand.

We will only understand what we are taught.”

- Baba Dioum, Senegal Poet

Owners need to feel responsible for their own education and to identify activities that can enhance their financial competence. Forming an education committee—with representation from different generations—to guide the family’s education efforts helps to ensure that the education program will respond to the varied needs of the family.

5. Family Education Program

The family that learns together, stays together. Investing in the future of the family by committing to an education program—for all ages—is a hallmark of families who have stayed together successfully for generations. Educational opportunities need to be consciously threaded throughout the activities of the family and the family office. Every conversation the family office has with a client is an opportunity for education. The annual family meeting should have an educational component. The FOX Guide to Family Education is an invaluable resource for families who are just beginning their education program, as well as those who are looking for ways to energize their efforts.

6. Collaborative Learning Experiences for Younger Generations

One of the most rewarding family endeavors is to plan an extended trip together as a group of cousins. One family offered a bare-boat sailing trip for a week to the adolescent cousins in their Gen 5 family, requiring that they crew their own ship. Another family member offered the Gen 3 cousins an opportunity to travel as a group to China for a four-month trip to learn about private equity opportunities in the Chinese market. Each was required to make a weekly report of their findings, and missing a reporting cycle was grounds for being sent home.

7. Financial Camp for Adolescents

Educational experiences should be fun and aligned with the age and financial literacy of the audience. Some families allocate time at their family meeting for financial activities for teens where there are games and other activities to aid their learning about basic financial concepts, budgeting, debit cards, etc. Other groups create ongoing investment competitions between adolescents in the family, having them report their investment returns on a quarterly basis, with modest rewards being distributed each quarter.

8. Private Equity Fund for Millennials

Setting aside funds for a group of cousins to invest together is a powerful training tool. Young adults will learn how to: communicate their needs and ideas, conduct due diligence, make decisions as a team, evaluate performance and report on their results. This “hands on” learning teaches them much more than any classroom experience. Families often use a Family Bank structure to fund the new investments, using a rigorous screening process overseen by an outside committee of industry experts.

9. Family Philanthropy to Engage the Next Generation

Many families use philanthropy to engage the next generation—for example, experiences where cousins work together to make the world a better place help to build lasting connections and cement family values. One FOX member shared her family’s decision to institute a Day of Caring at the close of each family meeting.

10. Quarterly Performance Reports

Most wealth owners want to know: What do I own, and how has it changed? And what do I need to be doing about it? Every financial report needs to convey this information in a manner that is meaningful for the client. Transparency is the foundation for trust. Every client needs to understand how investment decisions are made, by whom, and what fees are paid for these valuable services.

For more tips on family unity and more, check out the FOX Solutions Toolkit on Educating Family Members.

Interested in how philanthropy can help foster family unity? Click here to read more>>