- IMD Business School

Navigating your family's philanthropic future across generations

We live in a world of unprecedented change and transformation, in which world leaders are increasingly uncertain about how to tackle the many new challenges confronting humanity. Amid the global health and economic crisis, enterprising families worldwide are reminded of the timeless truth that a business can only prosper if the community in which it resides is taken care of. However, through our work in the field of family philanthropy, we find that for many enterprising families a variety of aspects of family philanthropy remain unclear. They often ask, how can we be sure that our philanthropy is having the desired impact? What are the best ways to get engaged in and organized around our family philanthropy? How can we inspire the wider family to take up the baton and give in a meaningful way? How can we build effective relationships to tackle some of the world’s most pressing and complex challenges?

To support family philanthropists in their philanthropic journeys, we joined forces with FBN International to conduct a global research project entitled “Navigating Your Family’s Philanthropic Future Across Generations.” Through this study, we explored enterprising families’ philanthropic motivations (why?), the scope of their giving (what?), the extent of their engagement (and their family’s) (who?), and the ways in which they organize their philanthropy (how?). It has become clear to us that the world of family philanthropy is incredibly diverse and complex, with many forms and variations. Our aim in presenting it is to contribute to the field of family philanthropy in at least four ways:

  1. Discussing the effect of family philanthropy on the wider family enterprise system
  2. Identifying and discussing tradeoffs in family philanthropy
  3. Presenting the Family Philanthropy Navigator tool
  4. Outlining the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on family philanthropy

In this report, we share insights collected from leading philanthropic families from around the globe. We have examined their approach to family philanthropy, opportunities, and challenges, as well as the impact of their philanthropy on various levels, such as the cause, the family, business, and society at large. This extensive research project has informed not only this report but was also an invaluable source of knowledge for the “Family Philanthropy Navigator,” our book published in December 2020.

Key takeaways

  • Apply a holistic and comprehensive view of family philanthropy that fits with the purpose and inner workings of the family
  • Nurture relationships and collaborations within and outside the family
  • Leverage the resources and governance practices of the family enterprise system to better serve your beneficiaries
  • Strengthen extended learning opportunities to test, validate and adopt effective approaches to impact
  • Reflect on the viability, feasibility and desirability of your philanthropic plan by prototyping your idea early on.


Success in philanthropy means different things to different people and it depends on individual circumstances and preferences. There are no specific “right” or “wrong” approaches to philanthropy, and any journey in giving will have wins and losses that we can learn from and share. While there are just as many ways to approach philanthropy, if approached in a thoughtful and structured way, family giving can be an impactful and engaging calling. It can become a lifelong passion as families start to see that they can make a real difference in the world.

Navigating Your Family’s Philanthropic Future Across Generations 2022

Authored by

Peter Vogel

Malgorzata Smulowitz (née Kurak)


Alexis du Roy de Blicquy

Caroline Seow

Etienne Eichenberger

Lise Møller


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