The saying that “charity begins at home” is typically cited to justify a lack of philanthropic activity, but it can be turned around to mean just the opposite: By modeling philanthropic behavior at home for their children, parents can influence them to have a sense of social responsibility toward those who need our help.
– Susan Schoenfeld
This behavior encompasses not only writing checks to causes we care about, but also volunteerism, taking the kids along on the midnight run or volunteering at a soup kitchen or whatever the family cause happens to be. Likewise, from a practice development and management standpoint, the attorney’s or estate planner’s personal philanthropy, particularly board service, can help guide clients and broaden one’s network.
In this way, the attorney can “do well by doing good.” Here are six issues for you to consider. Thinking about these issues and discussing them with your clients may help you to help your clients develop a satisfying approach to philanthropy. Why Get Involved? Clients may ask you for guidance on more than just taxes and probate matters.
In the course of an estate-planning engagement, clients frequently seek guidance on handling matters of legacy and philanthropy and establishing a mechanism for giving that lasts beyond the current generation. In fact, it’s by building that type of advisory relationship with clients that you, as the lawyer, become the family’s trusted advisor.
The estate planner who looks beyond the four corners of the document and instead serves as a resource is the one who builds lasting relationships with clients instead of merely transactional one-offs. Motivation for Giving To better advise clients who are embarking on their family giving journeys, begin by thinking about what motivates your own giving and volunteerism.
Did you donate to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, the typhoon in the Philippines, the earthquake in Nepal or other natural disaster? Why? Reflecting on what motivates your personal call to action can help you to guide your clients to discover their motivations. Encourage your clients to explore their personal values and to uncover the values held by their children and grandchildren individually and by the family as a whole.
The family can then mindfully employ the family foundation, donor advised fund (DAF) or other family philanthropic vehicle as an expression of those values. Studies have shown that the next generation is influenced by the giving patterns of their parents and grandparents: My family has taught me almost everything I know about giving and how to give.
I approach it very differently and, of course, bring different things to the table as a young person with a fresh perspective…. But everything that I do, my ‘roadmap,’ essentially, to giving is based upon what they have taught me.2 By opening the door to productive conversations about the family’s values and modeling and encouraging giving behavior for the next generation, senior generations can have a marked impact on the family attitude toward philanthropy for generations to come.
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