by Marc Ahmelman, Head of Philanthropy EWM Group,19 March 2018
Families new to philanthropy often pause perceiving it as daunting or only for the ultra-wealthy. Yet the reality is many families are already philanthropic in the literal sense of the word; love of humanity. Most people want to help; giving time, money or other in-kind support to family, friends or causes they care about.
Many families and family businesses that have been undertaking philanthropic activities in one form or another feel like they’re not making the change or impact they had envisioned. For some, their approach has been cheque book philanthropy, providing sponsorships or donations when approached.
As the name implies, cheque book philanthropy it is simply donating by cheque or cash (most likely EFT these days). EWM Group is seeing a shift from this type philanthropy, with families and individuals wanting to be more strategic with their giving to obtain more sustainable outcomes for society. Likewise, family business is now looking for greater engagement with the communities in which they operate beyond a traditional transactional relationship and sponsorships.
From a family business perspective, there is often confusion between community giving and philanthropy. Supporting the local sporting team and having your name and logo on a uniform or branding at the school fete is generous to be sure; however, its sponsorship and marketing not philanthropy.
Strategic philanthropy takes planning. Time needs to be spent investigating and understanding your motivations, purpose and values from a personal, family and family business viewpoints. A facilitated family workshop is generally a good way to begin new or review your philanthropic journey. Begin with bringing the family together to identify family values and mission. Tie in the family business and see if staff interests align for an all-encompassing strategy.
Once you understand motives, values and purpose, you can begin to plan, structure, and fulfil your philanthropic objectives;
· spend time researching organisations that align to your goals and values,
· look at the programs being delivered and see if they fit your objectives,
· talk to organisations, look for partnership beyond financial contribution,
· importantly, assess if the organisation is making a difference with their work.
It’s unlikely that you would start a business without research and planning and effective strategic philanthropy begins the same way.
Beyond making impact in our society, philanthropy brings family and family business benefits.
Philanthropic planning involving the whole family can lead to building a stronger family bond. Incorporating children and grandchildren into the discussion helps reinforce family values and foster empathy in younger generations. Involvement in the decision process also links money with accountability assisting in preparing heirs with transition of wealth at a future date.
Family business benefits through helping to grow relationships with customers, suppliers and networks and attract, retain and maintain staff and grow staff morale. These benefits lead to greater connection to the community, and the longevity of the business.