Establishing a culture of family philanthropy is like growing a garden. In gardening, there’s a practice called companion planting. It refers to multiple kinds of plants being grown close together for various benefits. For example, tomatoes face fewer pests and greater pollination when grown next to basil. These plants grow better together! 

The same thing happens when we live our values as a family. We grow together.

Family Cohesiveness: Growing Together

Discussing values as a family gives us a deeper understanding of each other and increases emotional bonding. And, a practice of living our values through giving together establishes meaningful traditions. That’s the very definition of family cohesiveness. Family cohesiveness is based on meaningful traditions, rituals, and shared experiences.

What makes you feel most connected to your family? 

For my daughter and me, it’s a tradition of travel. Years ago we took a day trip to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to see the dinosaur exhibit, because she was obsessed with dinosaurs at the time. We had such fun, it led to our seeking out various “dinosaur museums” in different states;. Over time, we began to travel for the adventure and not just to find dinosaurs. After all these years, we continue this valued tradition and make a point to travel to a new place at least annually. On these trips, we create memories, gain life experience, explore new places and cultures, and more importantly: experience life together. 

Family Philanthropy: Giving Together

In Identify Your Why, we emphasized the importance of setting goals aligned with your values. Being aligned with what fulfills us creates truly lasting happiness.

Even more powerful is creating a tradition of family cohesion through philanthropy. In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor shares that  “a long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism—giving to friends and strangers alike—decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.” 

So, why not create a family tradition of giving to deepen our bonding and root in our values?

Putting it Together: Establishing a Family Giving Plan

How do you create a family giving plan? Here are some tips:

Identify your family’s values

Knowing your family’s values begins first with identifying each person’s values–even the little ones! It can be so powerful to teach young people at the start of their journey to live their values. Read Identify Your Why for guidance on uncovering your values.

Once everyone is ready, come back together as a group. Allow each person to share what’s important to them and begin to notice. What themes arise? What happy memories do they trigger?

These recurring themes are likely your family’s core values. In my family, many of us teach, coach, and mentor either as a profession or through volunteer work. We’re inquisitive and love to learn. Our family strongly values education. Once you’ve identified your family’s core values, you’re ready for the next step.

Determine how you’ll give 

Giving doesn’t have to be expensive, and all methods of giving make a difference. You can give by volunteering your time, organizing a drive, or making a monetary contribution, for example. Different organizations have unique needs, so any form of giving, whether you give your time, energy, or money, can be impactful. Meaningful giving should fit comfortably into your means rather than overextend you. Remember that young children learn best from concrete experiences, so opportunities to give with time and energy give young kids  a memorable experience.

Develop ideas for your giving plan

Look for organizations and opportunities that match your family’s desired way of giving. Older kids, with stronger planning and research skills, can do this independently. If planning with younger kids, you brainstorm and research together. Or share a few ideas with them and involve them in discussing which to choose. For a breakdown of age-appropriate expectations of planning and research capabilities, see our blogs on traveling with kids.

Decide, as a family, which opportunities to include in your plan

As a family, decide on the organizations and opportunities you’ll pursue. You can start simply with one event. For example, if giving monetarily, decide how you’ll create a giving fund. Does each family member allocate a certain amount from the fund to various organizations of their choice? Do family members research various organizations and then a joint decision is made? If giving your time, perhaps you volunteer to read in a classroom, join and organization like Junior Achievement, or give your time by tutoring.

Put your plan into action

Whether you’ll volunteer for an organization, organize a fund raiser or allocate money through charitable contributions, put the plan into action.

Celebrate the experience!

Reflect on the experience. Did everyone leave excited and eager to do it again? Or, would you give differently the next time? Adjust your plan accordingly. Each experience will bring you together.

If you’d like to establish a tradition of philanthropy, strengthen your roots as a family this year by giving together. Whether it’s time, energy, or money, philanthropy provides a wealth of opportunities for your family to share meaningful experiences and bond over a shared purpose. This year: grow together by giving together.