Engaging in philanthropy with your family can be one of the most meaningful and transformational aspects of family life.

When connected to issues and values that are collectively important to you and your family, giving becomes more than a gesture or a transaction—it enables children, parents and grandparents to join together and work toward addressing or alleviating serious problems in your local and global communities. In this way, giving becomes a family affair that is passed from one generation to the next.

Though there are many benefits of making philanthropy a family tradition, getting started can seem daunting. This article is intended a starter guide, to help you and your family embark on a rewarding philanthropic journey.

Creating Family Mission and Vision Statements

Discussing your family’s values, motivations and ultimate goals for charitable giving will shift your philanthropy so that it is not merely transactional, but truly transformational. Particularly important is the creation of mission and vision statements for families with a family foundation or donor-advised fund, as these vehicles can be passed on from generation to generation. It is also an effective way for any family to ensure that their giving is guided by a consistent set of values.

Vision and mission statements are closely related, and each should be crafted with the other in mind. A vision statement defines your family’s primary philanthropic purpose and objectives, while a mission statement describes how you intend to accomplish that purpose. A well-written mission statement identifies why certain factors inspire your philanthropy and articulates why you have contributed to certain organizations.

These defining factors might include important people in your life, pivotal experiences, schools that you’ve attended, institutions that have shaped your thinking or relate to your spirituality. In addition to clarifying and focusing your giving, discussing your collective vision and mission is a way to involve all family members from the very beginning and ensure that all family members are in agreement on your giving strategy going forward.

One way to get the family together to draft a philanthropic mission and a vision statement is to hold a family retreat. Families may choose to hire a facilitator to lead the discussion.

However you choose to approach the process, the most important thing is to create an atmosphere of mutual trust in which family members can share their feelings openly.

Sample Vision Statements

  • Our family envisions a country where all children have equal opportunities to a quality education.

  • Our family envisions a community that is tolerant of all religions and does not engage in violence against people.

  • Our family envisions a world where all people have access to clean water.

Sample Mission Statements

We are very mindful of the fact that our local schools launched the successful careers of multiple generations of our family. Our family foundation’s primary mission is to serve our community by improving educational opportunity for disadvantaged children. We provide scholarship grants to deserving, graduating high school students to enable them to attend an accredited university and to fund specific academic programs and capital needs.

In light of our experience of having two children who grew up with Type 2 diabetes, our family’s mission is to make a difference in the health and well-being of children by addressing childhood obesity through education, counseling and medical research.

Our family is dedicated to creating a more humanitarian environment for cancer patients. After losing three family members to cancer, we recognize the need to make cancer patients’ final moments comfortable and peaceful. The foundation has a particular interest in supporting services for cancer patients and in complementing the work of the family foundation New Drug Development Program at Sample Hospital.

Once You Have Created a Mission Statement

Begin talking with your friends, colleagues and Private Wealth Advisor about the causes, issues, organizations and approaches they support for inspiration.

Volunteering for events and programs might also help you and your family to focus your philanthropy by giving you a window into how an organization you are interested in operates on a day-to-day basis.

Occasionally, a cause will find you. Having a child diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes may spur a family to make medical research their cause, or traveling to Africa and discovering the inequality experienced by children there may inspire a family to make primary school education in Uganda a priority. No matter how your family initially connects with its cause, the key is getting involved in something that you are all passionate about and finding ways to turn that passion into action.

Philanthropic priorities often change over time, so it is helpful to divide your philanthropic funds into three categories: organizations near and dear to you, community/obligatory gifts and impulse gifts.