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  • Service: Enterprise, Family business
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 3/12/2013

Creating a shared vision for family philanthropy 

Creating a shared vision
For many families, philanthropy is a core family value. Empowering different generations and branches of the family to play a greater role in furthering the family’s charitable activities – by facilitating a sense of identity with its work and ownership over the outcomes of that work – increases a charitable trust’s chances of surviving and thriving in subsequent years.

Central to upping family involvement is creating a shared vision of philanthropy.


Are the vision, mission and values shared?

Start by taking a look at your family tree and asking yourself some basic questions:


  • Which family members are currently involved in charitable activities, and which aren’t?
  • Why do you think some members are able to or have chosen to get involved and others haven’t?
  • Are all family members fully aware of your charity’s work?

Set up one-on-one meetings with family members to chat about why they are or aren’t involved in the family’s philanthropic activities. Talk about whether there are specific barriers to entry which discourage certain family members from contributing to the family’s charitable trust and about ways in which these can be overcome.


Ask about whether they identify with the family’s philanthropic vision and what they understand about its charitable work. Ask how they’d see themselves fitting in with the charitable trust and how their particular skills and personal attributes could be best used, if they were given the opportunity to be a part of things.


Encouraging charitable contribution

Develop a formal presentation on the family’s charitable trust, to be presented at family assembly. Outline the vision of the trust, its mission, goals, day-to-day operations and notable achievements. At the end of your presentation, facilitate an honest discussion – ask family members to point out what they think is being done well and areas where they think there’s room for improvement.


Take note of the general mood and attitude – what you’re looking for is a shared vision of the common good. Is there a sense of cohesion or is there a disconnect between what you think the charity should be doing, what it’s actually doing and what others think it should be doing?


Now that they understand more about its work, ask each family member (including non-blood relatives) to commit to serving the family charity in some way. Don’t force, however, encourage – emphasise why the family does charity work and why contributing is good for individuals, the family and the community.


Ask those who’ve opted in to write themselves a description of the role they see themselves playing in the family’s charitable trust. Compare their job descriptions against those which you’ve drawn up for each family member. Resist the urge to dictate roles; allowing family members the space to contribute in ways they feel best suits their particular skills and expertise can only bode well for family relations and continuing charitable work.


Collaboration and involvement

Keep people busy! Encouraging family members to collaborate on charity projects instils a firm work ethic and fosters a sense of team spirit, which can transfer to a formal work setting in the family business. Furthermore, charitable work may uncover hitherto hidden talents in some family members which could be used to great effect in business affairs.


Working alongside each other will also allow the next generation to gain a greater understanding of the inner workings of the charitable trust – knowledge which will be useful when they come to considering its future.


Promote shared decision-making around family affairs by encouraging family members to take responsibility for the work of the family’s charitable trust, rather than on relying on you – as the driving force behind both the family business and family charity – to make all the decisions for them. Ask them to reflect on how they wish to take things forward – specifically, who should be eligible to serve as trustees on the board of the family’s charitable trust and the sorts of activities the charity should be involved with in the future.


Get them to draw up a succession plan which includes criteria for trustees, as well as their vision for the future of the family’s philanthropic activities. Ask them to present it at the next family assembly.

Christophe Bernard

Christophe Bernard
I am a KPMG partner based in the French firm’s Paris office, responsible for encouraging the growth of our firms’ middle markets practice across Europe, Middle East and Africa, a majority of that market comprises of family businesses.
 

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