If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think of yourself as a philanthropist—and your business-owning clients probably don’t either.
The general tendency is to think of philanthropists as the super-wealthy who give away millions, even billions, of dollars—Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg. It’s easy to think of these folks first, and foremost, when it comes to philanthropy. After all, their philanthropy—especially for large gifts (and they all seem to be quite large)—is often met with much public fanfare. Press conferences with dignitaries. TV and print media reports. Even social media campaigns.
Don’t get me wrong. People who give away large sums to support worthy causes are to be commended for their generosity.
The point I want to make is that we are all philanthropists.
The word “philanthropy” means “love for humanity.” It’s derived from the Greek words phil – “loving” and anthropoid – “mankind.”
It’s not how much you give that makes you a philanthropist. It’s your intent behind the gift that makes the difference.
Philanthropy on the national level is the outpouring of generosity that we witnessed in the U.S. just a few weeks ago when people stood in line for hours to donate blood, and made small-dollar donations online that added up to millions in response to the tragedy of the mass-shooting in Orlando, Fla., where I live.
Philanthropy closer to home might look like support for a children’s sports team. Or it might be support for research to eradicate a dreaded disease that claimed the life of a loved one.
Philanthropy takes many forms, and people give for many reasons.
This applies to closely held and family businesses, as well as to individuals and families.
The odds are that your clients are already engaged in philanthropy of some kind. According to a 2014 survey by Kennesaw State University’s Cox Family Enterprise Center and EY, 81 percent of the largest family businesses across the globe practice philanthropy.
There are many business reasons to engage in philanthropy. To build the brand. To generate goodwill among customers and employees. To invest in communities where business operations are located. This makes philanthropy good for the business and good for the community.
Have you considered the myriad ways that philanthropy can also be good for the business-owning family?
Philanthropy can be used as a tool to:
- Further family culture by sharing the family’s values, vision and mission.
- Foster family cohesion by involving everyone in the family, regardless of whether they have a role within the family business.
- Facilitate development of family capabilities by providing opportunities for family members to develop their leadership, management and a range of other skills.
For business-owning families, strategic use of philanthropy should include one or more of these distinct family benefits, as well as benefits for the business and for the community.
To learn more about how you can help your clients use philanthropy to strengthen their families, promote their businesses and support their communities, check out the webinar recording on “Philanthropy and the Family Business: Good for the Family, Good for Business, Good for the Community.”
Thomasina Williams is the Principal Consultant at Sankofa Legacy Advisors, P.B.C. She is a member of the Galliard Family Business Advisor Institute and The Florida Bar. She also holds both the Family Firm Institute’s Certificate in Family Business Advising and its Certificate in Family Wealth Advising.