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Families and the Transformative Power of Philanthropy Part III: Inviting the Next Generation
In this third installment from Families and the Transformative Power of Philanthropy, Gary Shunk of Family Wealth Dynamics and Randy Fox of InKnowVision, LLC continue their exploration of the potential of employing philanthropy to bring about positive change in families of wealth by discussing how families can engage successor generations through social entrepreneurship.
By Gary Shunk with Randy Fox
After facilitating his family’s annual retreat, I was approached by a 4th generation family member. At the time, he was in his early thirties, and like his three siblings, had elected not to enter the families businesses. Steve and each of his siblings were recipients of significant annual dividends from the enterprise, however. This allowed each of them a significant amount of freedom to lead their own lives.
When we met, he described his life as an heir: “I feel like I don’t know where I belong or what I am supposed to be doing in life. When people ask me what I do, I always feel a mix of guilt and shame.” His twenties were a mix of “travel, indulgence, and a failed marriage.” The divorce was fresh when we first met and had been a very painful experience for him. He wanted to put “that life” behind him and move on.
With the support of his family, I became his coach for the next two years. In the discovery phase of our coaching it was evident Steve’s “purposeful values” were his core driver. Much of his earlier travels were to third world countries volunteering for a variety of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). As we ventured deeper into his values and vision, he began to talk about “social entrepreneurship.”
Because the field of social enterprise is vast and accelerating, I invited Steve to reflect on his strengths and interests to determine where he could best serve. He wrote a mission/vision statement that became the outline for his business plan. Over the course of two years, he created a sustainable Internet-based business that focuses on providing medical services for poor children in several third world countries. Essentially, a donor visits the site and chooses a child with needs including everything from general wellness to surgery and transplants. At first Steve funded the site and the medical expenses of the children until his site began to get attention. Now he takes out 6% of the donations to keep the business sustainable and passes on 94% of the money to his trusted affiliates on the ground, who disseminate the funds and are constantly searching for and vetting children in need. Steve originally started out in three countries he was familiar with from his travels. At this writing his social enterprise is in seven countries with plans for more.
Over the past few years I have encountered a variety of 3rd and 4th generation heirs from families of wealth who are engaging social entrepreneurship. Often their parents and grandparents have participated in classic forms of philanthropy. The field of social enterprise differs in that an heir finds a way to engage their purposeful values, financial resources, as well as their life energy in day-to-day work that is profitable to the “triple bottom line” - people, planet and profit. This type of philanthropy is neither better nor worse than traditional methods of giving. It is, however, more involving.
Steve’s passion for social enterprise infected his siblings who have each developed ventures of their own. In addition, Steve and his siblings engaged their parents in the creation of a family foundation whose mission it is to help emerging social entrepreneurs as well as attending to charitable causes the family in unity share concern and passion for.
In this case, a philanthropic endeavor led Steve to a solution for finding real purpose in his life. His guilt over his family wealth was turned to good works and he gained a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem that had been missing during his prior years. It took time to fully develop his mission and to make it real. It also took coaching, which he had the luxury to afford. Steve was able to demonstrate enough resolve and commitment to engage the rest of the family in similar endeavors with each seeking out and fulfilling their own individual missions and interests.
It isn’t always necessary for the family to unite around a singular philanthropic goal. In this case, it was individualization that was the unifying force.
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