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Expert Perspective

News, research and market insights from our team of experts.

e.Insight

Current Issue | November 16, 2017

Establishing a Pathway for Philanthropy

By: Daniel Meiklejohn J.D., CPA, Family Office Technical Strategist


A goal without a plan is merely a wish. You may have heard that statement before. Philanthropic intent oftentimes is merely a wish without an established philanthropic mission statement. As we have seen clients become more engaged in philanthropy, guiding them to take a more strategic and focused approach to giving can provide a meaningful impact. Many clients express the desire to implement and sustain a philanthropic aspect of their lives but may not know how to carry out such intent. Establishing and implementing a philanthropic mission statement can help define giving parameters, accelerate the process and improve satisfaction of the overall philanthropic impact.

Developing a philanthropic mission statement may take more time than expected but must be a deliberate process that effectively embodies and communicates philanthropic intent. The statement should be a brief, succinct description of your purpose and operate as a reminder of your philanthropic values while laying the groundwork on which other philanthropic policies are constructed. It can provide significant guidance and clarity on goals and the methods used to achieve them. Creating a mission statement can be both exciting and powerful and, utilizing one to capture your family's philanthropic vision, may bring cohesiveness and purpose to family members for generations.

Determining what inspires you will be a primary step in the statement's creation. It is important to understand the values, issues or causes you feel strongly about, your geographic focus and desired extent of involvement with the organization or cause. Describing the core values of your philanthropic intent will assist those who will help carry out your philanthropic mission. The potential difference the organization will make, what the intended outcome of your charitable giving may be and whether your goals are realistic may also be important discussion points and considerations. Mission statements may change over time as passions, interests and motivations evolve.

Provided below is a sample of a basic philanthropic mission statement:

​Our family focuses its giving in three main areas:

  • Families
  • Education
  • Medical Research

We have a strong interest in organizations that promote opportunities for individuals to be contributing and successful citizens and to help people lead productive and satisfying lives. We look for organizations that have a strategic vision to effect fundamental changes in these areas.

  • Which causes are you passionate about?
  • Which organizations support those causes?
  • How many organizations do you want to support?
  • How frequently do you want to give, in what amounts and with which assets?
  • How are you going to implement your desired giving​?
  • What do you hope to accomplish by giving?
  • Did you achieve your desired results?

If successful in establishing, implementing and maintaining a philanthropic mission statement, philanthropy can be a significant tool in helping shape and develop financial responsibility and discipline for children and grandchildren. Such results may be as simple as helping establish an understanding of how to make informed, disciplined decisions around the allocation of economic resources, how to analyze and assess strengths and weaknesses and bolster skills around collaboration and team work. Engaging in philanthropy can be powerful in bringing the family together among different generations, across geographic locations and around life events. Integrating philanthropy into your family life is a rewarding way to pass along strong and disciplined values of wealth and charitable giving.