Values, philanthropy: Cornerstones to lasting family business

“I choose to rise up out of that storm and see that in moments of desperation, fear, and helplessness, each of us can be a rainbow of hope, doing what we can to extend ourselves in kindness and grace to one another. And I know for sure that there is no them – there’s only us.”
– Oprah Winfrey

Philanthropy in family businesses

Philanthropy attempts to solve problems at their root causes (the difference between giving a hungry man a fish, and teaching him how to fish for himself). A person who practices philanthropy is called a philanthropist.

According to a PWC article, for many family businesses, a culture of values and responsible ownership comes naturally and giving back yields substantial dividends, both inside and outside the business. Not only can it be a positive extension of your family’s values into the world, family philanthropy can also be an excellent way to teach the next generation about financial stewardship and the good that wealth can accomplish.

Shared values: The glue that connects the family and business

For a family business, values connect every touch point in the life of the family enterprise. It is the source of the family business success, the enduring commitment to the family and the stakeholders, and to the founding generation. Clearly, it is the source of their legacy.

Shared values provide power to a business and acts as guideposts and alignment thereby assuring cohesion. It is also a powerful enabler in resolving conflicts – through the natural act of passing on the beacon to the next generation.

In my work as family business coach, a significant part of my sessions delves on helping family businesses identify and analyze family and business values and exhorting family members to “walk their talk.” The session then proceeds to connecting each value to the roles of every family member in embracing a wide range of values-centered activities. One of these activities is the creation of the family business’ philanthropic goals, leading to thoughtful and productive charitable giving.

Commitment to philanthropy

Family businesses are likely to be committed to philanthropy as the motivation to share their wealth and even personal capabilities (e.g. voluntary work) could be a result of wanting to train and shape the mindsets of the younger generations to know how to handle their wealth and not take it for granted. Through sharing and initiating projects that empower less fortunate people, the members of the family business would be able to discover that there is more to life other than being too busy counting their money or being too complacent and insensitive to other people.

The wealth they have could be put in investments that not just only multiply profits, but more importantly imbue a shared value between beneficiaries in the community and the members of the family business making a huge impact that will forever be remembered in the hearts of everyone engaged. To quote fellow family business coach Betsy Grill, “the families I work with often find that philanthropy is an excellent way to teach the next generation about financial stewardship in the context of giving back. It also offers children a tangible project in which they can be actively involved, particularly if they are too young to participate in the family business or in other wealth planning activities.”

The experience of participating in philanthropy becomes not only a one-way channel, but also a mutual encounter. It is an opportunity for the next successor and other members of the family who would soon be the family enterprise’s key players to live proactive and meaningful lives that are not centered only to the business and themselves, but thrive and find joy and fulfillment over generosity without egotistical motives.

The unifying factor: Going beyond differences

In service to humanity and for the good of the world, the members of the family business (both family and non-family employees) would have a common ground to come together and be united. Philanthropic efforts are such beautiful opportunities to forget about personal differences and create a culture of teamwork and generosity.

This is why we see companies stressing how their workers are involving themselves in volunteer work and in gathering all kinds of donations for the needy.


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