Bridging the gaps in multi-generational family philanthropy

According to figures cited in a May 2023 New York Times article (subscription required), total U.S. family wealth of $38 trillion in 1989 more than tripled to $140 trillion in 2022, with Baby Boomers and Generation X holding 90% of that. By 2045, older Americans will pass down a projected $84 trillion to Millennial and Gen X heirs, with $16 trillion transferring by 2033. With evermore wealth circulating, both ideas and conflicts about its use will likely result.

As you work with your multi-generational philanthropic clients to achieve their goals for financial plans, you have no doubt noticed that even a subject as uplifting as philanthropy can lead to lively discussions and sometimes even disagreements. To fulfill your role, you will need to lean on strategies to navigate conversations about charitable priorities when not everyone is on the same page.

You can also lean on Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF)—and we encourage you to do so! Community foundations occupy a unique position amid the unprecedented wealth transfer now underway: that of arbiter, guide and even peacemaker among benevolent multi-generation families. In addition to understanding the needs of the community, the nonprofits and programs that are addressing those needs, and the ins and outs of the tax vehicles best suited for your clients to help meet those needs, our team is also deeply experienced in facilitating productive dialogue among people who bring valuable, diverse viewpoints to the table.

As a secure, convenient, and trusted partner to help a family invest wealth in charitable causes, GCF can help you work with your philanthropic clients in a variety of ways:

  • Listening to understand the cross-generational and intra-generational values of a family.
  • Asking questions about what causes matter to your clients and the origins of those preferences, both historically and now.
  • Pairing GCF staff with family members to align according to personality and generation, thus fostering more intimate, empathetic and meaningful discussions.
  • Suggesting potential grantee organizations or causes grounded in the family’s values if the family is seeking input. We can also research organizations that the family is already supporting.
  • Educating the various generations about tactical opportunities including donor advised funds, field-of-interest funds, unrestricted funds, designated funds and anonymous giving, among others.
  • Developing options for multi-cause allocations that peacefully meet the needs of all involved.
  • Offering to meet at agreeable intervals, even digitally, to understand a family’s current and changing views.

We are here for you and the philanthropic families you serve. As the needs, capabilities and opinions around wealth expand, GCF can be a facilitator of conversations, connection and contributions among well-intended but independently minded families and help you carry out your professional responsibilities.

Family Philanthropy 5-Step Toolkit