Navigating Family Philanthropy: Planning for Legacy and Succession

Video Transcript

What is your legacy? Family philanthropy has the power to transform our communities, and our own families. And, with thoughtful planning, its impacts can reach far beyond any one individual moment or lifetime.

Legacy and Succession Planning are important aspects of an effective philanthropic effort. Don’t leave things to chance. Planning for how resources and roles will transition in the future should start as early as possible. Your philanthropic legacy is about what you intentionally accomplish during your lifetime and what you intentionally leave behind.

A Successful Plan

A successful plan involves defining your legacy, considering a lifespan for your philanthropy, planning for transitions, preparing yourself and others, and preparing for potential dissolution.


First, define your legacy. Is your legacy fueled by your family, connection to specific places, or shared values? How do your actions and intent shape your legacy?

Some donors want to see a measurable impact in the world, beyond their material success. Others think about legacy as a jumping off point for future generations. You may wish for it to be private or public, modest or transformative, personal or collaborative.

Only you can define what legacy means to you.

Consider a lifespan

Next, consider a lifespan for your philanthropic work. The lifespan of your philanthropy will affect how you plan for future generations. You might choose to complete your work while you’re living, create a limited lifespan philanthropic vehicle, or create a perpetual philanthropic vehicle that extends giving beyond your lifetime

Ultimately, your choice of lifespan should be strategic, and based on your philanthropic purpose, strategies, and goals for involving others in decision-making.

Plan transitions

When will you stop being involved? Who, if anyone, will continue your philanthropic strategy? There will be potential transitions in people, roles, resources, and more. Creating and managing the transition process will help maintain your social impact strategies and build a lasting legacy.

Looking ahead to transitions is hard. It often means taking a step back, setting aside your ego, and even confronting your mortality. But as hard as they can be, these conversations relieve our loved ones of the burden of figuring everything out at the time of our passing or other transition point.

Next generation

Next, prepare yourself and the next generation. Who will be involved and how will you make sure they’re ready for their new roles? Continuity requires a long-term, ongoing commitment to preparing successors for their future responsibilities.

Preparation might include informal mentoring, education, and providing opportunities for shared leadership. Giving everyone a seat provides opportunities for the whole family to make use of their time, talent, treasure, ties, and testimony.

Finally, think about dissolution

How should your philanthropic vehicle end? What should the end of your vehicle look and feel like? Winding down a social impact vehicle can be emotionally difficult for you and for the causes and communities you serve. Creating even a basic dissolution plan can ease some of that difficulty.

Intentional planning and discussion now can shape your legacy for years to come.

For more resources on this topic, including a workbook that takes you step by step through legacy and succession planning, visit The National Center for Family. Philanthropy


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