Warm greetings from cold and very snowy Washington, DC! Those of us experiencing our first 70-80 inches of snow in one winter have appreciated your sympathy and support and even, occasionally, your humor at our expense!
This month’s issue of Family Giving News pays attention to one of the most popular, frequently-requested topics: getting younger family members involved in philanthropy. I was particularly attracted to this theme because it was raised so many times in our recent study on the value of family philanthropy. That study involved 14 regional conversations and some 60 personal interviews detailing what value philanthropy represents – to the family, to the giving or community served, and to our democracy.
It was inspiring to hear families discuss the privilege of being involved in philanthropy – in giving and volunteering – and the joy this has given them. They spoke about the responsibilities (especially the work and time commitment) but also about how philanthropy has added to their lives and the lives of their families.
There are good reasons for getting young people acquainted and involved in the family commitment to community and giving. Families spoke of the value young people get from working in the nonprofit sector, even serving on boards. They spoke of how such service contributes to the sense of self-discovery by young family members, especially when they are coming to terms with their family’s wealth, influence and position in the community. Philanthropy and community service can ground young people in their values and their personal interests, and offer them ideas for what they can do to contribute to society.
Family philanthropy also provides parents and family members a way to introduce community problems and needs to their children in very empowering and optimistic ways. Children can feel helpless in the face of difficult—and sometimes frightening—situations. Philanthropy offers families a chance to introduce community issues, to identify those of special concern to the family, and to develop strategies for giving and volunteering to meaningfully address those issues. In fact, philanthropy may be one of the most constructive ways to introduce children to social needs. How exciting it is to engage children in this process, thereby helping them see that there is something positive they can do to work toward better communities, both individually and as a family.
I hope you’ll look forward to reading the results of all of this research when A Generous Tradition: The Value of Family in Philanthropy is published this spring. And, as always, I hope you enjoy this issue of Family Giving News. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions about both.
Virginia Esposito, President, National Center For Family Philanthropy