Canada Gives’ Foundation clients have a common goal: making an impact on their communities or preferred charities through smart, targeted family philanthropy. They want to make the world a better place and leave a lasting legacy that puts their wealth to good use improving the lives of others. Their vision is as inspiring as it is laudable. The time and effort they put into achieving it is impressive.
While they often begin their giving journey with a plan to make the world a little brighter, they soon begin wondering about how to sustain their philanthropic efforts across generations. As we noted in our last blog, holidays such as Thanksgiving are an ideal time to involve family members in charitable planning for the year. But they’re also a perfect opportunity to instill a sense of philanthropy in your children and grandchildren.
Building a legacy that stretches from one generation to the next takes planning and determination, but is entirely achievable.
Direct engagement with charities
In fact, many of our most active givers are children of philanthropists who made the support of one or more charities a central part of their lives from a young age. They’re so intent on effectively distributing funds from their Canada Gives Foundation account that they often spend hours meticulously researching the various charities they may support. In some cases, they eventually take on board or volunteer positions with those organizations, taking their philanthropy to the next level by donating their time and becoming directly involved.
That determination to maximize the difference they make derives directly from parents who made sure to instill values such as generosity, caring and a readiness to always lend support to those who need it most. Their goal was to remind their children that building a strong community requires a concerted effort; making it a better place one donation, one volunteer session or one fundraising drive at a time. In other words, it takes real dedication. The good news: that work comes with a major fringe benefit. Giving back not only delivers a sense of warmth and accomplishment, it also creates the conditions for widespread success across your community. Conveying that message requires repetition, as well as creating a culture of caring within a family. But when it’s done right, it sets the stage for a lifetime of humanitarianism.
Put simply, creating a lasting legacy of philanthropy offers a plethora of opportunities for growth for your kids and even adult members of your family. Some of the most important include:
Teaching strategic, critical thinking
Asking children—whether pre-teens, teenagers or young adults—to help select a charity to support often yields unexpected results. Many philanthropic parents discover just how creative and practical their children are when it comes time to make important decisions. They’ll weigh the pros and cons of supporting one organization over another. They’ll think about the overall impact. Today’s kids are savvy researchers that have myriad digital tools at their disposal to better understand the implications of their charitable actions. They’ll use every one of them to help make the right choice.
This kind of strategic, analytical and critical thinking is incredibly important to their development. It’s also a unique attribute of the philanthropic process that’s hard to replicate anywhere else.
Strengthening family bonds
As we explained in that recent Thanksgiving blog, philanthropy has an amazing way of uniting families, delivering opportunities to come together and focusing their attention on a common goal. It’s hard to think of another activity that achieves the same results so well.
When a sense of philanthropic responsibility is exchanged between generations, it also creates an expectation that the family’s legacy of giving will be carried on. Senior members of the family will work to effectively pass the torch out of a desire to continue that good work and extend their benevolence to benefit future generations. It’s the notion that giving back is something the family has always done and will continue to do. It becomes a defining feature of your clan’s generous spirit.
Community engagement and improvement
Of course, a lasting legacy of family philanthropy will deliver remarkable benefits to the community—either locally or abroad in cases where your charitable aspirations expand beyond Canada’s borders. Being able to drive past the local hospital and know that your donations helped purchase life-saving MRI machines; that the tree planting you and the kids did at the local park produced a lush canopy for the community to enjoy; or that those volunteer hours at the local hospice brought peace to a person in their final days. These are emotional gifts that are virtually impossible to replicate. Why not share them with your family members?
Developing financial literacy
Many parents lament the state of math education in our schools. Some feel that practical skills aren’t being adequately taught, leaving students to figure out key concepts on their own. But what better training for the real world is there than teaching children about budgeting, asset allocation and even investment management from an early age through philanthropy?
Now, children obviously won’t be managing a portfolio, but we’ve seen many clients use their charitable activities as a tool for teaching math concepts that help make financial management accessible, tangible, understandable and, most importantly, fun and exciting. This is a family-wide benefit of philanthropy, and one that few people fully understand until they experience it first hand.
It’s important to note that giving back isn’t just about cutting a cheque to a charity. The most meaningful philanthropy is sustainable and delivered over time. Engaging family members in the process is a way to help achieve that goal, all while rallying your loved ones for a common cause.
Denise Castonguay, Executive Director and CEO