A Legacy of Giving A conversation with Roger (63), Executive Vice President, Chicago, Illinois

Roger and his sister were third generation inheritors and despite the fact that his parents and grandparents had always been charitable, philanthropy wasn't really discussed at home. When he and his wife started to look at their own charitable interests, he wanted things to be different. He wanted to involve their children and he realized he didn't have the “language” or perspective to pass on to his children.

“I’ll admit it...my sister and I grew up fairly privileged.  My grandparents had set up a family trust  and each of us had our own  small trust fund.  My parents tried to teach us not to take what we had for granted...they taught us many things growing up, some of them consciously, others less so…My love of fly fishing I got directly from my dad. But we never talked about the charitable giving my parents did or what organizations my grandparents gave to and why. So when we became parents, my wife and I wanted to make sure we instilled the right values in our kids and we thought philanthropy would be one way to do that--and it should be so easy to talk about. But there I was a third generation philanthropist with no really knowledge about how to be a good one or frankly do really meaningful philanthropy, instead of just writing checks to organizations. Some role model for the kids, right?

So at one point when the kids were in grade school, Jodi and I decided we wanted them to know more about their grandparents and great grandparents. What they did and why that was important. I wanted them to know that philanthropy was really a family affair.

"Jodi and I decided to make philanthropy a family affair."

I guess it was Jodi who first came up with the idea of talking to someone. She said, "When we’re sick we go to the doctor, when we file our taxes we use an accountant.  Why don’t we go outside the family and find someone to help us be better at philanthropy?"

Of course she was playing right into who I am...I'm a numbers guy. I believe in having as much information about what I’m doing or decisions I’m making as possible.  Philanthropy isn't really any different, I figured. If you really want your contributions to be effective you better know the 'who', 'what', 'why' and 'where'. Besides, with everything else that was going on, I just didn’t have time to do the kind of due diligence I normally like to do before committing money to a cause. Yes I know, there’s  a cost attached to hiring  professional help but  I figure good philanthropy is a lot like good business.  When you want something, and want it done right, you hire the best person you can find to help you make sure it gets done.

At the suggestion of our advisor we set up a Donor Advised Fund in each of the kids' names. They each had a certain amount of the money in the fund they could use for their own philanthropy. They got to choose the issues they wanted to be involved with and choose the organizations to give to. But we wanted to know why they selected those organizations.  How they got their information and what they intended to fund at the organization; a program, operations, advocacy?  In the beginning they had absolutely no idea what we were talking about, but this was a family learning experience and so we all did the same things and talked about it.  As the kids got older we increased the amount in each DAF. And my brilliant, wonderful children?  Well they’ve stayed involved with many of those organizations. My son is on the Junior Board of one organization. As Jodi said, we’re not only teaching the kids about giving, but how to handle money as well, and the kind of good it can do when it’s used correctly."

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