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Family Philanthropy Series: How to Talk to Your Kids and Grandkids about Money

A young grandchild hugs her grandma

Linne Lemke


More than 62% of parents are reluctant to discuss financial matters with children (T. Rowe Price). On May 17, Greater Twin Cities United Way hosted a discussion called Family Philanthropy: How to Talk to Your Kids and Grandkids about Money. With guest speakers Caitlin Abram, Senior Estate Planning Associate at NorthRock Partners, and Marie Ruzek, JD, CFRE, CAP, SVP Senior Philanthropic Specialist at Wells Fargo, we shared practical ideas to help attendees identify their family values and legacy and how they can structure their charitable giving to reflect those values.

I’d like to share some of the highlights from our session with you now.

Attendee Karin Trail-Johnson, Senior Fellow at the University of St Thomas in the Center for the Common Good, shared this tip:

"Talking about philanthropy with young people is a great opportunity for deeper intergenerational conversations. Asking “If you had a magic wand and could solve a social problem, what would you want to do?” or “What issues do you worry about or what do you love to do in your free time?” helps you learn about their concerns. Following up with giving to these causes gives kids a sense of agency that they can have an impact on issues they care about.”

Below Are a Few Ideas to Help Your Family Conversations:

  • Determine Your Family’s Values: At your family gathering give everyone a copy of What Are Your Philanthropic Values. Have everyone select their top five values, then review all the answers as a family. Picking out the values with the most consensus could be a way to decide on where to focus your family’s philanthropy.
  • As you review your values, recognize that your children and grandchildren have engaged you in philanthropy whether you know it or not. How many bags of popcorn or boxes of cookies have you bought over the years? Remind your children and grandchildren of their philanthropic endeavors to help them make the connection to philanthropy.
  • How to start talking about your family’s philanthropic values: Give each family member the same amount of money, $50 for example, with the caveat they can do whatever they want with it as long as they do not use it for themselves, and that they should donate the money to a charity. Then meet again and ask everyone to share what they did with the money and why. Encourage everyone to articulate why they wanted to help the organization they chose and the impact they felt they had in the community.

Understanding your family values will help guide you in your charitable giving. Multigenerational estate issues come up when there is a lack of family communication. Even if everyone is not agreeing, it goes a long way to prevent leaving behind unanswered questions.

At Greater Twin Cities United Way, we are here to help you with your family philanthropy. Please contact Linne Lemke or your relationship officer to learn more about how to make the greatest impact in our community through your charitable giving.

P.S. Watch for our next Family Philanthropy Session in the fall!

About the Author

Linne Lemke is a Planned Giving Officer and works with individual donors who believe that all people in our community deserve the opportunity to thrive especially people who are marginalized by race, income or place. Linne earned her Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from St. Thomas Opus College of Business in 2016. She serves on the board of directors of the Minnesota Gift Planning Association (MGPA) and is a member of the WCA Foundation.

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