Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to think about what makes family philanthropy so special. I attended the inaugural National Forum on Family Philanthropy and came away with a deeper understanding of the importance of family and philanthropy.

I understood more than ever that family philanthropy is about people who share a common bond anwho come together to look outside of themselves. In the process of doing this, they strengthen the bonds between each family member. All of this is done out of love – love for themselves and others.

I can think of many examples of how special family philanthropy is.

There is:

  • A mom who wants her twenty-something boys to remain close and remember the values she taught them.
  • The parents who became very successful financially, who want their children to serve others and not just themselves.
  • The divorced dad, who wants to teach his girls about money, and in so doing, allows them to find their voice and power.
  • A mother transferring leadership of her family’s philanthropy to her daughter, understanding that her daughter will hold the family’s values close.

Something wonderful happens when families come together around giving. And, truly, all families can find a way. For example:

  • Plan a family meeting. (It can take place around a family holiday or on a weekend.)
  • Write or record your unique family story. (Allow each family member to have a voice and a role.)
  • Make your family tree.
  • Have children interview their grandparents.
  • Ask each family member to share what matters most to them. (What values are most important and what issues do they care about?)
  • Involve the youngest and the oldest members of your family.
  • Find at least one area of shared interest and learn about it together.
  • Give of your time and talent and volunteer as a family.
  • Give of your treasure and decide as a family where to make a financial gift.
  • If you know one family, you know one family. No two families are exactly the same. Families come in different shapes and sizes—small, large, nuclear, extended, blended—and everything in between. Just imagine what our community would look like if family philanthropy was something that all families did?