Peter Solomon, father of two adult children, steadfastly gives time and money to nonprofit organizations. The president and CEO of Regency Homes instilled this philosophy in his children from an early age.
“My kids were born here, grew up here, and came back to work for us after college,” he says. “They were and still are the recipients of the cultural amenities we are privileged to have here. Both were familiar with the McCallum Theatre and The Living Desert from the time they were 5.
It was not a stretch when they came back here working for the family company to say, ‘It’s your community, and you need to give back both financially and with your time.’”
Solomon’s son and daughter-in-law are involved with the YMCA and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Desert. His daughter is a Muse at McCallum Theatre and on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Both are members of Rancho Mirage Rotary.
“One of biggest concerns I have is, when you go to various fundraising events here, many of the donors are elderly,” Solomon says, “and I don’t see as many of the younger generation stepping up to take their place.”
Starting children early with philanthropy as a part of their lives is key to creating a lifelong interest and passion in giving.
“We see many family foundations setting up junior boards,” says Dori Kreiger, managing director of family philanthropy services for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Foundations. Armed with cameras and questions, children visit charities that interest them and then present their findings to their family foundation board, making a request for where they would like funding to go.
As former managing director of Northern Trust’s Rancho Mirage office and now a private fiduciary and independent trustee of estates, David Wilson has advised clients for years on wealth management and family foundations. He tells them to expose children to philanthropy as early as 5 or 10 years of age. “Take them around to see age-appropriate nonprofits the family supports,” he says. “Past 10, let them contribute from their allowance to a cause or charity of their choice. Ask why they chose that.
See what draws them to a certain type of charity. This is key information for when they do take responsibility in the family’s giving decisions.”
Janice Burrill, senior vice president and philanthropic consultant with Wells Fargo Philanthropic Services, distinguishes check writers from true philanthropists. “There are those who write checks, which of course are needed, and then there are those for whom philanthropy is an inherent part of their way of life and value system as a person,” she says. Parents and grandparents need to share that concept with younger generations.
The complete educational process includes family/foundation board members, estate attorneys, investment trust officers, and those who administer the actions taken by the foundation board. Make sure there is a link between estate planning and philanthropic planning.
“Involving children and grandchildren as advisory members on the family foundation board helps them learn management of the family’s long-term charitable goals,” says Lantson Eldred, an Indian Wells lawyer specializing in multigenerational estate planning for large estates. “They see how requests are considered and the conditions under which grants are given.”
Ron Gother, president of the Desert Community Foundation, spent 41 years as a lawyer. Among his clients was the Lawrence Welk Family Foundation. “They set the best example I’ve seen of getting the next generation involved,” he recalls. Welk and his three siblings ran the foundation’s board, making all the giving decisions until his death. As the next generation came along, 10 percent of the budget was allocated to their new charities. “Giving that responsibility worked so well for the Welk family that it continues to the third generation,” Gother notes. Several members of the family lecture around the country on the subject.
If you don’t have a formal family foundation, consider setting one up. And when handing over the reins, recognize that the foundation’s mission may change as it evolves with the younger generations.