The Philanthropy Toolkit

Involving Family


For many donors, philanthropy presents a unique opportunity to include family—however you may define it—and create a family legacy. You may include family members in helping develop philanthropic goals, providing feedback, or carrying out your philanthropic mission.


This section guides you through the following steps:

  1. Involve your family in your philanthropy
    to create and embrace shared family values and create a meaningful legacy.
  2. Navigate family dynamics
    through a series of reflection activities.
  3. Involve the next generation
    (children and grandchildren) to encourage and support their philanthropy.
  • 3.1 Involve your family in your philanthropy

    Involving your family can take multiple forms, from involving them in decision making to preparing for eventual succession. Before engaging your family, it can be helpful to outline the forms of involvement you wish to consider. It is useful to be clear about your expectations for various family members’ roles and to seek their buy-in.



    Review the questions in Activity G and jot down your thoughts. You do not have to answer all the questions, but we recommend you give each topic some consideration before reaching out to your family members.

    Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided

    For more information on discussing philanthropy with your family, see Additional Resources below.


    Understand the different roles family members can play

    Here is a list of some roles that family members can play in your philanthropy. One person can play multiple roles. As you go through this list, think about which roles meet your current needs and the family members who might be able to fill those roles. If you feel some uncertainty engaging family members, consider having a conversation to ask their thoughts about giving back or invite them to volunteer together.

    1. CO-PHILANTHROPIST: I want this person to be my partner in philanthropy, to help me set my priorities, to be a sounding board, and to be involved throughout the process.
    2. IMPLEMENTER: I want this person to help me research how and where to give and help me implement my philanthropic goals.
    3. THOUGHT PARTNER OR ADVISOR: I want this person to give me feedback on my philanthropic goals and plans for achieving them.
    4. SUCCESSOR: I want this person to continue bestowing my philanthropic assets after my passing.
    5. OTHER: Add your own reasons for wanting to include this person.

    You will allocate these roles to your family members at the end of this section, in the Engaging Family Summary.



    Use reflection questions to work through family dynamics and set your family up for a successful philanthropic journey.

    Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided






  • 3.2 Involve the next generation

    Involving the next generation is often of great importance to donors. Philanthropy is an opportunity to bring family together around a common goal, communicate values across generations, and develop a sense of social responsibility in the next generation. Having discussions about giving back helps ground the next generation’s understanding of social responsibility to carry out family activities, such as a day of service, site visits, and on-going volunteering. This section suggests possible ways to introduce the next generation to philanthropy.

    For more information on engaging the next generation, see Additional Resources: Section 3 at the end of this toolkit.


    Introduce the next generation (e.g., your children or grandchildren) to the significance of philanthropy and the process of giving through discussion-based reflections and interactive activities.

    Suggested printing instructions: Letter-size, portrait, double-sided


Now that you have completed Section 3, turn to the Involving Family Summary on the next page. Identify the family members you would like to engage in your philanthropy and outline each family member’s contribution in an engagement plan. Tear out the summary to include in your Philanthropy Planner at the end of the toolkit.

Suggested printing instructions: Legal-size, landscape, double-sided


Click to open PDF in a new window: EPLI Philanthropy Planner: Involving Family Summary