That was the question she asked me in a casual conversation recently. It started as the common “how are things going?” conversation. She asked about our organization’s name change again, “Your something?” I reminded her it was “Your Philanthropy” and things were going well. Almost before I ended the sentence she looked down and quietly said, “We need to talk to our kids about some of our philanthropy decisions, but we’ve never had those kinds of talks before. It’s all in our will, but we haven’t shared it with them. I think we’re late, but when is late too late? We don’t know where to start.”
Where to start is at the beginning. When to start is sooner than later because such conversations take time and shouldn’t be rushed. It might even be more than one conversation.
Why to start is because we all make assumptions about what our children or parents are thinking. We each have a built in “assumption meter,” but they’re not always accurate.
A short list of reasons to start the conversation soon:
- It helps everyone in the family understand your purpose and plans.
- It’s an opportunity to share your dreams and the legacy you wish to leave.
- You’re setting an example of how to have conversations about money, wealth, legacy and philanthropy.
- Imagine discovering your child has a similar dream.
- You might hear about one of their dreams that will spark a new interest for you.
- It helps calibrate the assumption meter. Knowledge and understanding improves accuracy.
- It increases respect between the generations.
It’s never too late to start the conversation. It doesn’t matter how old the adult children are. In fact, the older they are, the sooner it should start.
How it starts also matters. Often, it is helpful in conversations of this nature to have an outside trusted facilitator who can help the family have the conversation. It may be a conversation that occurs over several different planned gatherings. Every family is different, but there is a way that’s right for each.
A great place to start is with someone who can help you plan and then facilitate the discussions. At Your Philanthropy, we can help you think about the best way to have this conversation. We can even facilitate. But the first and most important step is to begin to talk about how and when to do it. Once you take that step the next best steps can follow.
It’s not necessary to be the White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s “Adventures in Wonderland” who famously said, “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”
More to come next time on how to identify a facilitator and the most important skills needed.