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Charting a Course for Family Giving

Author: Wealth Management Systems, Inc.

Families have long supported the notion of giving back to society as a way of expressing appreciation for their good fortune. Nurturing a tradition of family giving — of both assets and time — may bring a family closer together and develop a shared value system that can be passed down to future generations.

Identifying Your Mission

As a starting point, a family may want to outline a purpose or mission for its philanthropic endeavors. Holidays or family get-togethers are perfect times to begin the discussion. Adults and older children can share rewarding experiences that have impacted their lives, while younger children should be encouraged to identify role models they admire. Outlining these thoughts and feelings can help the family craft a mission statement to focus their charitable efforts.

Mission statements don’t need to be lengthy, but they should address three key criteria:

  • The cause a family plans to support;
  • The goal the family would like to achieve; and
  • A plan to achieve the goal.

As part of their deliberations, families should consider the issues, interests or causes that they care most about, and whether they want to focus their efforts on locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally. The following hypothetical statements offer some examples:

  • We will help to lift the spirits of the homeless during the holiday season by sponsoring and serving dinner to shelter residents.
  • We will raise awareness about a disease or affliction (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, autism, pancreatic cancer) by competing in a road race, promoting our participation and securing pledges for research dollars.
  • We will help finance art projects for inner-city youth, meet as a family three times annually and identify groups to receive donations generated from the activity.

Making a Lasting Difference

With the mission established, your family can explore opportunities to make a difference in the lives of individuals, or to help support a cause or organization.

For instance, many organizations, including religious affiliates, sponsor annual trips to the world’s troubled regions matching volunteers with host communities to build schools, clinics and/or homes for the needy. Habitat for Humanity is perhaps best known among Americans for its work building housing for low-income families and for those whose homes were destroyed by disaster.1

Families can also work together to support a specific charitable event. For instance, Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger focuses on eradicating hunger in Massachusetts,2 while The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® provides financial and social support for families effected by breast cancer.3

Of course, a family’s charity event of choice need not be as high profile as these examples. Opportunities to participate in fundraisers in local communities abound:

  • Active families can compete for pledges in a walking/running event.
  • Technology savvy individuals may volunteer to organize and manage an event’s website.
  • Cooks can provide refreshments for sale at an event.
  • Children can create posters or volunteer at a craft table.

The only real criteria for involving the whole family in charitable activities is a common passion for doing good and a commitment to achieving tangible results. When these shared values are in place, families can foster a charitable mission that is both rewarding and lasting.

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Morgan Stanley Global Service Centers


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