Engaging the Next Generation with the Family Foundation

Date: Nov 17 2014

Lisa M. Strutzel, CPA, CFO and COO, GWR Wealth Management, LLC

Our Family Office Exchange Senior Management Council met recently to discuss ways to engage the rising generation in the family office. 

The family foundation is an excellent vehicle for introducing the rising generation to family values, mission, philanthropy and investments.  Ideally, the concept of philanthropy would be introduced to children at a young age, with the level of involvement increasing over time.  Membership on the family foundation board would be the culmination of years of exposure to the family’s philanthropy. 

Working with Greg McCann from Stetson University, our group developed a three tier onboarding approach as follows:
1. Introduction to Giving – for ages 8-15.  The parent or grandparent allots an amount annually to the child to donate to a charity or charities.  The amount granted can be based on age or a set amount.  The family office provides resources as needed to assist the child with the selection process.  The child is asked to articulate to the sponsor their selection rationale prior to the disbursement of the funds.  An example was given of a grandfather who gifts a set amount to each grandchild annually.  At the family’s December Christmas party, the grandchildren report on their selected charities. The family office facilitates the donations prior to year-end from the grandparent on behalf of the grandchildren.     

2. Rising Generation Gifting Club – for ages 16-21. This Club is funded by participating family members, or their sponsors, who commit to donate a certain amount annually for the purpose of joint gifting. The club is meant to serve as an introduction to grant making, legacy and governance.  The inclusive approach is designed to provide an environment for the participants to work together and gain hands on philanthropy experience.  The family office is involved only to the extent it assists in providing a non-threatening environment and facilitates the group decision-making.   Family members serving on the foundation board attend club meetings on a periodic basis to provide context and share family values.  

3. Foundation Onboarding Internship – two-year post college program.  This is a two year internship program that is a prerequisite for being a board member.  The purpose of the program is to ensure board candidates understand the mission, values and structure of the family foundation.  The candidates are required to attend each quarterly board meeting either in person or via phone.  Board members are assigned to the candidates to act as mentors, and the family office assists with the educational process.  The candidates are eligible to be on the foundation board once the two-year internship program is successfully completed. 

Developing family members to be active participants in their family’s philanthropy is one way of preparing the rising generation for the responsibilities that come with significant wealth.  By exposing children to giving at a young age and creating a multi-step approach to development, you are giving them the tools necessary to continue the family’s giving legacy into perpetuity.