Philanthropy can be a unifying endeavour for families. And it’s one area in which you can get a head start in developing a relationship with your clients’ children.

“Any financial advisor who is not incorporating philanthropy proactively is missing a huge opportunity to connect on a deeper level and engage the next generation,” says Jo-Anne Ryan, vice president, philanthropy services, with TD Wealth in Toronto.

The younger generation may be drawn to different causes from their parents, and you can help them explore their options alongside the family. Whether or not your clients have the funds to establish a family foundation, you can find informal ways of including their children.

The following are some steps you can take to involve your clients’ children in philanthropy:

> Hold an open family meeting
Extend an invitation to the younger generation to sit in on grant-making discussions, says Marvi Ricker, vice-president and managing director of philanthropic services at BMO Harris Private Banking in Toronto.

“Even if they’re in their teens, [your clients’ children] can attend meetings so that they will have a sense of what’s going on and feel involved,” Ricker says.

Ricker notes that there’s often an “invisible hierarchy” within a family, through which certain members’ views are given more weight. While your role is not to mediate, you can be attuned to those dynamics so you can make the experience positive for everyone.

> Raise the subject
Talks on charitable giving can be triggered by events such as the death of a family member, legacy planning, a windfall or a change in your client’s tax situation. But you don’t have to wait for any of these issues to crop up, Ryan says.

Broaching the subject of creating a multi-generational philanthropic plan can be easier than pitching a financial plan, says Ryan: “It’s actually a much more enjoyable conversation, talking about how they want to give their money away as opposed to investments.”

> Give them a primer
Walk the family through the kinds of questions they should be asking the charities, Ricker says. This step can be as simple as putting together a package of links to websites that explain how to examine an organization’s budget, how to evaluate its impact and other issues they should consider.

> Engage in a “values-based discussion”
Younger generations may not embrace the same organizations the family has traditionally supported. Statistic Canada research has noted, for example, that older Canadians prefer donating to religious and health organizations. Younger people may be interested in organizations involved with environmental or social issues.

To engage your clients’ children, you can help identify the values that matter most to them, Ryan says. Work to develop a plan that reflects their passion, yet still satisfies the family’s wishes.

> Share your own experience
Without boasting about your own charitable donations, you can mention volunteer experiences or organizations you have engaged in. “It’s a good way to open up about what they might be interested in,” Ryan says.

You might even consider inviting the family out to community functions or events as part of your engagement efforts. For example, Ryan’s firm has invited women and their daughters to moderated talks on how female philanthropists are shaping the sector.

This is the first part in a two-part series on philanthropy. Next: How your clients can demonstrate the importance of philanthropy to their children.

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