Intergenerational Approaches to Philanthropy


How do family values shape the approach to philanthropy? Conversely, how could philanthropic endeavours shape family values?

By 2030, it is expected that over 2.5 trillion dollars in Asia will be transferred from one generation to the next. As the currents in wealth shift and new generations come to the helm of family businesses and philanthropy, the time is ripe for a discussion on the role of giving in a family. How can current leaders meaningfully involve the next generation in a family’s existing philanthropic work? How can new generations balance their interests with the family’s legacy and expectations?

To begin examining these questions and navigate a path toward greater collective impact, APC members gathered for an intimate conversation on intergenerational philanthropy. Together, they faced some of the elephants in the room when engaging across generations on questions of purpose and social impact. A number of deeply personal ideas emerged.

Family Values

Family values drive giving structures and approaches. Members discussed that differences in giving approaches often came down to differences in personal and family values, and hencewhat the money represented, for e.g., personal sacrifice, freedom, impact etc. impacted their giving.

Giving is also often motivated by a desire to transmit values across generations. In fact, structures and approaches can be a vehicle for transmitting family values to future generations. Some choose to actively give most of their wealth away in their lifetimes as a way of forcing their next generation to be driven, hungry, and motivated. On the flip side, some feel that the challenges and obligations that new generations may wrestle with respect to wealth and identity could be solved by giving away as much as possible instead of passing the wealth on. This shows that different concerns and values can sometimes drive the same outcomes. What is most important is to have discussions on family values on a regular basis, which may be helpful in the philanthropic journey as well.

Sometimes there could be tensions between wanting to maximise social impact and wanting to ensure inclusion of all family members. It was suggested that processes around governance and decision-making could help.

Individual Identity

Individual identities deeply affect how a person views and approaches philanthropy. For example, whether one identifies as earner, giver, inheritor, or generator could affect the way one interacts with the wealth and its uses. Some people question their role in giving if they had not earned the money, some wrestled with imposter syndrome, and some shared that they feel a burden to constantly prove their value in order to be given money. New generations in families with wealth tend to wrestle with whether they could have ownership over the family’s wealth and legacy, including in philanthropic activities. Hence, the exploration into philanthropy often involves some degree of introspection. As one member puts it, “Given that all causes are worthy, finding the spark within yourself is important.

Room for Experimentation

Making space for exploration therefore is critical for successful engagement in philanthropy across generations. New generations sometimes desire do things differently, to solve different issues, or try different approaches. Some families create sidecar funds for such activities or set aside separate resources for newer generations to learn and experiment. Some families also determine to have new decisions be left to each successive generation which should be respected by the older generations. There are multiple ways to encourage growing ownership and interest across generations.

Reflections on Impact and Legacy

The question of structuring giving for perpetuity or creating a spend-down model naturally emerges from these reflections. Some philanthropists prefer to solve today’s problems today. Others apply a similar lens of wealth preservation for protecting a family to protecting the future of a cause especially for issues with a long-time horizon needed for meaningful change. Reflections on family philanthropy thus often return to impact and legacy, even if different approaches work for different families and causes. APC is excited that this is the start of a larger conversation about the changing face and facets of philanthropy.