Philanthropy and the family business: Ripe for great questions 

More than half of the country’s GDP is generated by the 5.5 million family-owned businesses in the United States. Profits aren’t the only priority for most family businesses; indeed, the vast majority of family business owners report that other factors, such as culture, community, charity, and values, are also important to the business. Although it is not surprising that philanthropy is a vital part of the family business fabric, setting up the right structure to leave a legacy is not a cakewalk. As you advise a business-owner client, consider sharing questions that might help your client create or grow an effective corporate philanthropy program within the family enterprise.

Getting organized

Does the company have a strategy or system for prioritizing sponsorship requests, charity event invitations, and requests for donations? Is the strategy based on the owners’ values, along with employee input? What is the communication strategy for maintaining positive relations with the charities whose requests the company turns down? How are requests from employees handled? Could a corporate donor-advised fund at YouthBridge help streamline administrative load? Is there a corporate foundation in place and if so could it be streamlined into a corporate donor-advised fund to save administration hassles and better leverage tax strategies?

Getting employees engaged

If the company has a community engagement program, how popular is it? For example, is there a matching gifts program and is that program being utilized as expected? Are employees eager to attend community events to sit at the company’s tables, or is it sometimes hard to fill seats? Are there opportunities for employees to volunteer together at local nonprofits? Has the company surveyed employees to learn about their favorite causes and the ways they prefer to give back (e.g., donate money, volunteer, serve on boards)?

Getting the word out

How is the company letting employees and other stakeholders know about its community commitments? Is it a priority to share civic engagement with the outside world, such as through a page on the company’s website, or is the company’s approach to stay under the radar? Do the employee handbook and recruiting materials describe community engagement opportunities for employees?

Helping your clients ask the right questions can make a big difference in the success of their corporate philanthropy programs.

Related, and importantly, it is wise to remind your clients that the sale of a closely-held business creates strong opportunities for tax-savvy charitable giving–and that it is critical for the business owner to plan ahead.

As always, the team at YouthBridge Community Foundation is here to help you serve your family business clients by setting up a corporate donor-advised fund, assisting with a matching gifts program, creating donor-advised funds for employees, collaborating on a philanthropic component of a business sale, and much, much more.

This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal, accounting, or financial planning advice. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your giving strategy, please contact Cindy Blake.