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A Conversation on Multi-Generational Giving

Four generations. Five panelists. Different views on philanthropy. And, one giant elephant. These were the items in the room at Palmer Memorial Chapel when we began our Multi-Generational Family Forum on June 17th. Through group activities and discussion, participants furthered their understanding of how each generation thinks and, in turn, increased their ability to engage their entire family in philanthropy. The conversation also centered on the barriers that affect giving (our elephant) and how a multi-generational family could address them.

Family looking at camera in parkFour generations. Five panelists. Different views on philanthropy. And, one giant elephant. These were the items in the room at Palmer Memorial Chapel when we began our Multi-Generational Family Forum on June 17th. Through group activities and discussion, participants furthered their understanding of how each generation thinks and, in turn, increased their ability to engage their entire family in philanthropy. The conversation also centered on the barriers that affect giving (our elephant) and how a multi-generational family could address them.

Each of the four generations experienced different times and events during their formative years (ages 15-25), changing the way they now view the world and shaping the values they hold close to their hearts. To fully understand these different perspectives, we began our evening by identifying the events that occurred during each generation’s formative years and discussing how these events impacted their views on philanthropy. Our multi-generational panelists personalized the discussion, answering questions and sharing stories about their lives and their philanthropic experiences. We learned that Traditionalists (ages 69+) value patriotism and loyalty. They were taught to “save for a rainy day” and to “hold on to what you have.” Baby Boomers (ages 51-68) were influenced by events such as Vietnam, civil rights, and school integration. Shaped by these events, this group believes in optimism, youth, competitiveness, and activism. Generation X (ages 34-50), shaped by the increase in latchkey kids and the Vietnam War, values resourcefulness and the resulting improved quality of life. Millennials (ages 15-33), who are now in the formative years, embrace diversity and positive change.

When asked what messages they received about philanthropy while growing up, each panelist mentioned that the importance of giving was instilled in them through the examples and encouragement of adults in their community. Each generation felt that philanthropy begins in the home, with families discussing their values with each other and helping their children to learn how to give. The panelists agreed that teaching our children to take care of others was a vital seed to cultivating a future generation of philanthropists. Led by the Millennial generation, the panelists also agreed that philanthropy includes time, talent, and money and that more focus should be placed on non-monetary philanthropy. The Millennial’s example of the value of their time, their skills and their networks, resonated with the audience.

When we left at the end of the evening, the group had a greater understanding and appreciation of one another. And, a shared desire to increase philanthropy across all ages. The Community Foundation hopes to continue this conversation in our community and, we hope that you will join us.