Giving Back

Giving back

How to Make Philanthropy a Family Affair

How to Find and Act on Your Philanthropic Passion

Many families find it helpful to create vision and mission statements to guide their philanthropy.

Creating Family Mission and Vision Statements

Discussing your family’s values, motivations and ultimate goals for charitable giving will shift your philanthropy so that it is not merely transactional, but truly transformational. Particularly important is the creation of mission and vision statements for families with a family foundation or donor-advised fund, as these vehicles can be passed on from generation to generation. It is also an effective way for any family to ensure that their giving is guided by a consistent set of values.

Vision and mission statements are closely related, and each should be crafted with the other in mind. A vision statement defines your family’s primary philanthropic purpose and objectives, while a mission statement describes how you intend to accomplish that purpose. A well-written mission statement identifies why certain factors inspire your philanthropy and articulates why you have contributed to certain organizations. These defining factors might include important people in your life, pivotal experiences, schools that you’ve attended, or institutions that have shaped your thinking or relate to your spirituality. In addition to clarifying and focusing your giving, discussing your collective vision and mission is a way to involve all family members from the very beginning and ensure that all family members are in agreement on your giving strategy going forward.

One way to get the family together to draft a philanthropic mission and a vision statement is to hold a family retreat. Families may choose to hire a facilitator to lead the discussion. However you choose to approach the process, the most important thing is to create an atmosphere of mutual trust in which family members can share their feelings openly.

Sample Vision Statements

  • Our family envisions a country where all children have equal opportunities to a quality education.
  • Our family envisions a community that is tolerant of all religions and does not engage in violence against people.
  • Our family envisions a world where all people have access to clean water.

Sample Mission Statements

  • We are very mindful of the fact that our local schools launched the successful careers of multiple generations of our family. Our family foundation’s primary mission is to serve our community by improving educational opportunity for disadvantaged children. We provide scholarship grants to deserving, graduating high school students to enable them to attend an accredited university and to fund specific academic programs and capital needs.
  • In light of our experience of having two children who grew up with Type 2 diabetes, our family’s mission is to make a difference in the health and well-being of children by addressing childhood obesity through education, counseling and medical research.
  • Our family is dedicated to creating a more humanitarian environment for cancer patients. After losing three family members to cancer, we recognize the need to make cancer patients’ final moments comfortable and peaceful. The foundation has a particular interest in supporting services for cancer patients and in complementing the work of the family foundation New Drug Development Program at Sample Hospital.

Focusing Your Philanthropy
Once you have created a mission statement, begin talking with your friends, colleagues and Financial Advisor about the causes, issues, organizations and approaches they support for inspiration. Volunteering for events and programs might also help you and your family to focus your philanthropy by giving you a window into how an organization you are interested in operates on a day-to-day basis.

Occasionally, a cause will find you. Having a child diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes may spur a family to make medical research their cause, or travelling to Africa and discovering the inequality experienced by children there may inspire a family to make primary school education in Uganda a priority. No matter how your family initially connects with its cause, the key is getting involved in something that you are all passionate about and finding ways to turn that passion into action.

Philanthropic priorities often change over time, so it is helpful to divide your philanthropic funds into three categories; we typically define these three categories as Core (the area or areas where your primary passions lie), Discretionary (the causes you support at the behest of others), and Emergency (temporary, reactive causes, e.g., disaster relief).

How Families Can Give Together

Your family can even express its interest in a better world through its everyday purchases. Every time you buy goods from green, sustainable or socially conscious organizations, you can make a difference. Examples of conscious consumption include shopping at stores that eschew child labor, supporting the local cooperative farmer’s markets or purchasing eyewear from a company that donates a pair of glasses to a child in need for every pair purchased.

Whether you wish to volunteer for, donate to, fundraise for or join the board of an organization, your Financial Advisor can help you determine which organizations are effective before you make the decision to align yourself and your family with a cause.

Giving Your Time
Donations of time are essential. Most nonprofit organizations rely heavily upon volunteer power, and many are understaffed to meet the needs of their mission. Budgeting time for philanthropy is an effective way to weave giving into the fabric of family life while creating immediate benefits for those you are helping and long-term good for society as a whole. Taking a hands-on approach to practicing philanthropy also helps the next generation feel connected to a cause.

Giving Your Talent
Each of us has unique talents that can be used to help, or even transform, the lives of others. In addition to pro bono financial planning, legal or technology services, nonprofit organizations can benefit from a full spectrum of professional, technical and creative skills, including construction, food preparation, plumbing, painting, knitting and more. Taking an inventory of who you are, what you can offer and how much time you can commit is an exercise worth doing with every member of your family.

Giving Your Treasure
There are many ways to present financial gifts, including as individual donations, through family foundations and via donor-advised funds. Determining how to give, including over what time frame to distribute a gift, is an important decision for both donors and recipient nonprofit organizations. In addition to deciding among one-time donations, multiyear grants and perpetual gifts, donors may choose to place restrictions on gifts as a way of ensuring that their giving is tied to programs that are meaningful to them or aligned with their expectations of success. Your Financial Advisor can help you understand the nuances of unrestricted, temporarily restricted and permanently restricted gifts.

Investing with Impact
Your philanthropic potential is not limited to direct charitable gifts. How you choose to invest your family wealth can also help you achieve meaningful and positive philanthropic outcomes. Impact investing involves investing in select opportunities that satisfy the need for a financial return while generating measurable social, environmental or governance benefits.

Aligning your portfolio investments with your values can:

  • Promote responsible corporate behavior
  • Foster solutions-based social enterprises, and
  • Provide much-needed capital.

Impact investing may also present an opportunity for families to get the next generation involved in family philanthropy and family wealth planning. Younger family members tend to be more interested in impact investing, and increased global connectivity has eliminated many of the informational and logistical challenges that once deterred investors from exploring nontraditional markets. Contact your Financial Advisor to learn more about impact investing and get assistance in identifying opportunities to further corporate, social or environmental good.

As part of our commitment to you and your family, Morgan Stanley is dedicated to providing guidance and accurate, up-to-date information that can help you determine and execute your philanthropic strategy and incorporate it into your overall family wealth planning strategy. Your Financial Advisor is ready to help you and your family make crucial decisions and key connections that lead to purposeful and effective philanthropy—the type of giving that not only elevates awareness and inspires action around issues that are important to you, but also ensures that your legacy of meaningful giving is preserved for generations to come.

The returns on a portfolio consisting primarily of Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) aware investments may be lower or higher than a portfolio that is more diversified or where decisions are based solely on investment considerations. Because ESG criteria exclude some investments, investors may not be able to take advantage of the same opportunities or market trends as investors that do not use such criteria.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (“Morgan Stanley”), its affiliates and Morgan Stanley Financial Advisors and Private Wealth Advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Clients should consult their tax advisor for matters involving taxation and tax planning and their attorney for matters involving trust and estate planning, charitable giving, philanthropic planning and other legal matters.

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