Navigating Family Philanthropy: Choosing Your Philanthropic Vehicles

Video Transcript

Family philanthropy has the power to transform communities. But achieving this impact requires purposeful decision-making.

Selecting a philanthropic vehicle or vehicles is one of the most important choices you can make to support your giving goals.

So, what is a philanthropic vehicle? Philanthropic vehicles are the tools and entitites you can establish to manage your philanthropic resources and achieve your social impact strategy. If your philanthropic purpose is the why of your philanthropy, the vehicles are the how. Your choice of vehicle should be informed by your purpose.

Types of vehicles include charitable vehicles, private sector vehicles, and civic engagement vehicles.

Considerations When Choosing a Philanthropic Vehicle

How do you choose the ones that are right for you?

First, consider your philanthropic resources, or your “Five Ts:”

  • time,
  • talent,
  • ties,
  • testimony,
  • and treasure.

Next, consider your decision factors:

  • purpose,
  • resources,
  • people,
  • timespan,
  • and privacy.

Your decision factors, as well as how you want to allocate your Five Ts, will influence which vehicle best suits your preferences. Often, a portfolio of multiple vehicles may fit your needs best.

So let’s talk about what different types of vehicles can offer.

Charitable Vehicles

Charitable vehicles are often the primary philanthropic structures for giving families. Your donation to these vehicles is tax-deductible if you itemize and irrevocable, with all contributions ear-marked for charity.

One of the most common types of charitable vehicles is a private foundation, which is either a charitable trust, or nonprofit corporation. Funds are distributed for charitable purposes. Private foundations are well-suited to long-term philanthropic goals. They’re a great way to engage your family, and have social impact.

Another great way to engage your family is through a donor-advised fund. It is a simple and tax-smart solution to help you achieve maximum impact with your philanthropy. It’s administered by a charitable sponsor that qualifies as an independent 501(c)(3) public charity. Donor-advised funds relieve the administrative burden for families, and allow for flexible and anonymous gifts.

Private Sector Vehicles

Families can also connect philanthropic purpose and profit through private sector vehicles. Private sector vehicles allow you to leverage the private sector for social impact. Launch or transform your family business into a mission-driven one. Or make impact investments.

Examples of private sector vehicles include corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives within a business to leverage its resources toward positive impact.

Families may also choose to create social enterprises, benefit corporations, and B Corps to balance profit and purpose.

Many donors opt to invest all of their capital for good. Socially responsible investing, sustainable investing, and program-related investments are all types of impact investments. This type of investing aims to generate social or environmental benefits while delivering a financial return.

Many families create a limited liability company (LLC) for maximum control, flexibility, and privacy.

They can promote impact investing, advocacy efforts, and traditional grantmaking without the restrictions of tax-exempt organizations.

Civic Engagement Vehicles

Finally, civic engagement vehicles complement the work of charitable and private sector vehicles. Civic engagement vehicles can be used to improve the quality of life in communities through both political and nonpolitical processes.

501(c)(4)s are social welfare organizations with the ability to lobby.

And 527 political organizations influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment, or defeat of candidates for public office.

Peer-based Vehicles

Some donors like to take action with their peers, combining their “Five Ts” into one pool of resources for outsized results.

Peer-based vehicles include crowdfunding, giving circles, social movements, and mutual aid networks.

There are many options to choose from, but selecting a philanthropic vehicle doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We encourage you to consult with a professional to explore the different tax and legal implications for each vehicle.

To download our guide and learn more about supporting your family philanthropy efforts, visit our website.

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