Philanthropy in Complex, Multi-Generational Families

The Research

This research examines the ways that families work together in their philanthropy over time. In particular, it considers how the family foundation’s design and operation is informed by—and informs—the family’s philanthropic activities that take place outside of it.


The explosion of the use of philanthropic vehicles in the past three decades, coupled with massive intergenerational wealth transfer, means that affluent families are giving in many more ways, both collectively and individually. Researchers from Lansberg Gersick Advisors hypothesized that families’ abilities to work together effectively in their philanthropy is dependent not only on the way they design their collective family foundation, but also in how they structure the philanthropic activities outside of it.

From 2018-2022, they conducted surveys and interviews with members of 20 US-based, multi-generational family philanthropic systems. They found that as families evolve, they face common dilemmas regarding their philanthropy—most critically, the choices they make about balancing the individual philanthropic priorities of their members with a collective family philanthropic endeavor. Researchers found that the most successful families developed and utilized a range of philanthropic vehicles, strategies, and practices to meet both individual and collective aspirations of their expanding family. They conclude with lessons on ways that families can best design their philanthropy systems—and the family foundations embedded in them—to create impactful giving, positive experiences for family members, and stronger family relationships.

Read the executive summary and full report below.

Executive Summary

Overview of the report and its findings.

Full Report

Read the full report in depth.


NCFP would like to thank Ashley Blanchard and Wendy R. Ulaszek of Lansberg Gersick Advisors for authoring this report, as well as the individuals and families who took part in the research.

If you have any queries or feedback on this research please contact NCFP.