Conversations with a Cause

The following is by Andy Ho and was cross-posted with the Council on Foundation’s blog, RE:Philanthropy.

Parent: “What did you learn in school today?”

Johnny: “Nothing.”

Every parent knows how difficult it is to engage a child, particularly a teenager, in any type of conversation, never mind trying to start family conversations about philanthropy and charitable giving that inevitably lead to awkward glances at the dinner table. In my family, language and cultural differences with my parents and grandparents are additional barriers to meaningful conversation that are often difficult to overcome. When we do have these conversations about where we’ve been and the experiences and people that have shaped us into who we are, it makes me really appreciate the family I’ve been born (and married) into. And that is what many children will come to realize. But how can we do a better job of pointing this out to them now without forcing it on them?

With summer in full swing, this might be a great time to engage your family members in some meaningful conversation on the topic of giving, perhaps during that upcoming family vacation. These conversations can be spontaneous, informal, and casual, and don’t require sitting down to a structured meeting in order to take place. Studies have shown that conversations about family philanthropy provide deeper connections and a sense of shared values, and can help guide the legacy for future generations.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal talked about taking simple steps to encourage philanthropy and explain why doing good is important. Groups like 21/64 and Relative Solutions have developed tools to encourage such conversations through questions that explore the motivations, values, and feelings along various themes of giving. Thoughtful philanthropy is inspired philanthropy, and taking time to initiate conversations with the next generation helps engage family members of all ages to explore philanthropy together.

What motivates you to give? What issues are you passionate about? What causes do you support? Who has influenced your giving?

About the Author

andyAndrew Ho is Manager of Global Philanthropy at the Council on Foundations, a national association of charitable foundations, where he is responsible for developing resources and programs for effective global grantmaking. He also works closely with high net worth individuals, philanthropists, and next generation trustees on strategic planning and thoughtful philanthropy. In addition, Andrew is currently serving as a consultant for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to develop strategies for public-philanthropic partnerships to benefit Asian American communities across the country.

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