What’s your family legacy?

March 18, 2021


While thinking about family philanthropy, I typed the word “legacy” into the thesaurus and was surprised that the first words to pop up were “endowment,” “bequest,” “estate,” and “gift.”  These are words that I use daily, but I doubt most of you use them when thinking about family and philanthropy.

Typing in “tradition” results in words more common to our thoughts about family and philanthropy, such as “belief,” “culture,” “custom,” “heritage,” and “habit.”

Consciously or not, we all instill family values in our children and grandchildren, whether big traditions at the holidays, conversations around elections, whether to sit down to supper together during the week, and our choices of fashion, movies, and music.

Money is another way we instill values as a family.  What do we choose to spend our money on?  Beyond the basics of home, car, groceries, and clothing, what do we choose?  Vacations?  College education?  Boats and RVs?

What about charity?  Do you teach your children how to put money in the offering plate each Sunday?  Do you take your children along when you volunteer?  Do you write checks to your favorite charities each December?  If so, do you involve the kids and grandkids in your decision-making?  If so, you’re already practicing “family philanthropy.”

You don’t have to be wealthy to practice philanthropy as a family.  Through the Community Foundation of Grundy County and GiveGrundy, we have ways to help you talk with your family about values, money, and charity.

During the Liberty Arts Festival and the Chamber’s FamilyFest, GiveGrundy did a craft project with kids called “Giving Jars.”  Kids decorated three plain jars labeled “Save,” “Spend,” and “Give.”  While the kids decorated, we talked with the adults about the meanings of the jars and how they can continue to talk with children about their family money values.  Each time a child gets money, whether for birthday, good grades, chores, or the Tooth Fairy, you can have a conversation about how much of that money to save, spend, or give.

The amount and percentages varies from family to family – the important part is to have the conversations about how much as well as where and when to use it.  What is the child saving for?  What do they plan to buy soon with their “spend” money?  Where will they donate their “give” money?  Pinterest has many examples of materials that you can use to make your own giving jars, so we invite you to make your own and have these conversations with your children and grandchildren.

Another way to have family conversations around money, values, traditions, and charity is our Holiday Experiment.  This is usually a Thanksgiving/Christmas project, but you can do it anytime.  For example, if your family is gathering for Easter in this continued pandemic, the elders of the family give each child/grandchild some money – whether it’s $10, $50, or $100 – and ask them to give it away to charity.  The next time you’re together (Mother’s Day? Memorial Day?) go around the table and ask each person to tell which charity they chose and why.

This makes for a great conversation, listening, and understanding session.  As parents and grandparents, you can witness whether your family is echoing your values or whether they’ve chosen something completely opposite of yours.  If their choices are similar to yours, how do you keep that going?  If their choices are opposite, are you willing to support them in their endeavors?

Having these conversations and experiences as a family allows you the opportunity to create and build a family philanthropy legacy of both giving and volunteering.

The Community Foundation of Grundy County offers services to help you create and sustain your family philanthropy.  Donor Advised Funds are the most flexible and allow for children and grandchildren to direct grantmaking now or after your lifetime.  You can also involve your family when setting up a scholarship here – maybe to honor a loved one.

Grandmothers are very welcome to bring your daughters and granddaughters to our 100+ Women Who Care of Grundy County gatherings where you’ll hear other women advocate for their favorite charities.  Our next gathering is Tuesday, April 13th, at 5:30 pm.  Each $100 contribution to the kitty gets one vote, so you can vote as a family or donate $100 per person and each get one vote.  This is a very empowering project for young women and girls and we invite all females of Grundy County to get involved!

Again, you don’t have to be wealthy to build and leave a legacy of family philanthropy.  Ken and I are excited to announce that we started our own endowed Donor Advised Fund at Christmas.  We are taking advantage of the Community Foundation’s “ANNUALforALWAYS™” program for modest income donors.  Created by my friend, Lea Ann Skogsberg in Yorkville, it is designed to help modest income donors set up endowments that start small and build over time.  We discussed this with our sons before setting it up and will continue to have a family meeting each December as we plan our grantmaking.  They will get to make all of the decisions after our lifetimes and we are encouraging them to involve their families someday, too.

ANNUALforALWAYS™ is a mathematical formula that calculates how much to donate each year to allow for both grantmaking and endowment building.  For example, to build an endowment that distributes $500 a year forever, the donor deposits $1,450 a year into their Fund.  $500 of that is available for grantmaking and the remainder gets invested in the endowment.

And to make it even more modest and convenient, Ken and I have used the Community Foundation’s online donor portal to have $125 a month automatically withdrawn from our debit card/checking account.  Over time, this modest monthly payment will build into a fully mature endowment.  Then we can either stop the $125/month donation or we can continue it indefinitely to grow the endowment even larger to make our grantmaking more impactful.

To view other ANNUALforALWAYS™ programs, please visit https://cfgrundycounty.com/annualforalways/  Here we have charts demonstrating how donors of all types can create endowments to fit their budgets and charitable goals, such as endowments with $500, $1,000, $25,000, $50,000, or even $100,000 annual grantmaking.

What are your family’s values?  What are your family’s charitable goals?  How do you want to build and sustain a family legacy of philanthropy?  How can the Community Foundation of Grundy County help you achieve all of these ideas, dreams, and goals?  Feel free to call or visit to learn more!

Julianne Buck is the Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Grundy County, located in the historic Coleman Hardware Building at 520 W. Illinois Avenue in Morris.  Their phone is 815-941-0852 and her email is [email protected]

Click here to read the column as it appeared in the Morris Herald-News