Strong Giving Traditions Matter
Fidelity Charitable

Philanthropy can be a powerful way for families to pass along their shared beliefs and values. It can also provide unique opportunities for families to spend time together, collaborate, and learn more about one another. Integrating philanthropic conversations and activities into family life is an excellent way to encourage healthy attitudes about helping others while instilling a sense of financial responsibility among younger generations. And giving together can be a bonding experience for family members of all generations.

Fidelity Charitable recently completed a study designed to learn which people and practices had the greatest influence on giving habits. Survey respondents were asked how philanthropic activities they experienced while they were growing up influences their giving today. Respondents were also asked what they are doing with their families today to encourage charitable activity.

Key insights

Strong giving traditions matter

Many families engage in philanthropic activities together. Whether they attend church or a charitable event, volunteer together, or talk about what charities to donate to, our research shows that the more respondents engage in charitable activities with their families, the more likely they are to report that they are happy and that their families are close.

The study asked respondents if they had engaged in any of the below activities with their families growing up and if they engage in any of the activities with their family today. The activities included:

  • Visiting charitable organizations together (house of worship, university, charity events, etc.)
  • Talking as a family about the importance of doing their part
  • Talking about finances in general
  • Using charitable giving as a way of understanding how fortunate their family is
  • Using charitable giving as a way of sharing family beliefs and values
  • Engaging in some type of charitable activity to honor a family member
  • Volunteering time together
  • Discussing ways the family or family members are helping with a particular cause or issue
  • Talking about what charities to donate to
  • Providing an amount of money—a “giving allowance”—that can be used for charitable giving
  • Talking about how much money to donate to specific charities

The study showed that those who grew up in families with strong giving traditions—defined as families that engaged in six or more of the above giving activities—are likely to give more to charity today.

Giving traditions are associated with greater happiness

Many studies have shown that giving brings us joy. Fidelity's study also shows that people who grew up in families with strong giving traditions are more likely to consider themselves to be happy today.

Parents, your kids are inspired by you

Fidelity's research shows that among respondents who grew up with strong giving traditions, parents were their biggest influence. Grandparents who engaged in giving traditions with their grandchildren were also influential.

Families are talking more about giving

Families are talking more about giving these days.

Only about two-fifths of all respondents characterized their family’s giving style growing up as “consultative” (one person received input from the family but made the final decision) or “democratic” (decisions are made together as a family).

However, today nearly three-fourths report that their own families take a “consultative” or “democratic” approach to philanthropic decisions.

How to start your own giving traditions

Do something together

Fidelity's research shows that respondents who engaged in charitable activities with their families growing up—whether going to church, volunteering together, or attending a charitable event—are more likely to give more today or volunteer their time at a charitable organization. Those who engaged in charitable activities with their families growing up are:

  • 27% more likely to give $5K or more to charity annually
  • 22% more likely to volunteer

Provide kids with a giving allowance

Providing children with a giving allowance teaches them to prioritize giving and also allows them to plan ahead for philanthropy. In the study, those who grew up receiving a giving allowance give more to charities and volunteer more as adults. Those who received a giving allowance growing up are:

  • 39% more likely to give $5K or more to charity annually
  • 15% more likely to volunteer

Talk about giving with your family

Talk about where and how much to give. Discuss why you give and the difference you can make. Talk about your family’s values and the importance of doing your part. Think together about what difference your family is making and discuss finances in general. Our study shows that those who engaged in a variety of conversations about philanthropy with their families growing up give more to charity and volunteer more today. Those who talked about a variety of giving topics with their families growing up are:

  • 22% more likely to give $5K or more to charity annually
  • 18% more likely to volunteer

Find Fidelity's full report, Family Giving Traditions, here. Learn more about starting your own giving traditions with Fidelity's tip sheet.