Philanthropy

Many business families are strong supporters of their local communities and the charities they support can make a real difference.  There are many reasons why these entrepreneurs pursue philanthropic paths, including giving back to the communities that have helped them, engaging their employees and building culture, living out their values in their home town, sharing their wealth with others, giving in a tax-effective manner, and on and on. There seems to be no end to the good reasons we hear for business leaders wanting to support worthwhile charities.

It is a norm that the values which drive business owners personally tend to also show up in the way they conduct their business. Family values are generally very evident in companies these same families own and lead. As a result, the generosity of many of these owners (which also is seen inside their firms) becomes clear in the way they contribute to causes outside their firms.

We see companies giving financially of course, but we also see them getting involved in cleanup activities in the communities, helping build houses for lower-income families, or giving their staff time off to support homeless shelters and food bank drives. Some companies offer matching donations to charities their staff give to, while others promote or give to causes in the arts, social agencies, kids programs, hospitals, and many more.

Why is this important? Well, the fact that they want to do it is enough in itself, and clearly the community is stronger for the involvement of these businesses and their owners. However, it also demonstrates to the employees and family members the value of caring for others. This can have a significant impact on the development of the staff, and next generation, and is part of the stewardship business leaders are responsible for, quite apart from the benefits received by those who are directly on the receiving end of the philanthropic effort.

Interestingly, we also regularly hear that the leaders who initiate the giving also receive much in giving the gift and business owners consistently find they get much satisfaction and joy from their giving. This should not be a surprise to anyone, since we have all had experiences where givers get as much back (and more) from being generous.

Some families in business move the philanthropy into the family circle as well, creating dialogue with their kids about giving, and engaging them in activities which help them learn how to be “good givers.”  This is important, since it is possible to inadvertently cause harm by giving to others in ways that do not have the intended effect (or have unseen adverse impacts). We see families who create forums for the upcoming generation to give away funds or time to causes they are passionate about in a thoughtful way. It can start small, with relatively tiny amounts of funds (for a five year old, one hundred dollars is a very big amount!) being dedicated to give away. These families often have a once a year meeting, where the next generation are encouraged to bring forward ideas for recipients, and a rationale (adjusted for their age and ability) for why the recipient would be a worthy way for the family to invest. The conversation around possible places to give, how much, and why, are generative and important ways to teach younger family members about the value of giving, and wise ways to do so.