Strategic philanthropyFamily philanthropy: Year-end giving strategies

Key things to know

  • The end of the year is a prime time for making much-needed donations to charitable organizations and it’s a good time to give if you can.

  • Holidays and year-end gatherings are also ideal times to discuss your family’s strategic philanthropic plan and the philanthropy you’re involved in.

  • Encourage and strengthen family philanthropy through storytelling, philanthropic challenges and gifts of time and money specifically meant to honor others.

The end of the year is a wonderful time for family gatherings, reflections and new resolutions. It’s also an ideal time to come together and discuss shared values. Family philanthropy can be a great unifier, providing your family with a meaningful way to explore those values and engage multiple generations in charitable traditions old and new.

Giving is top-of-mind during the holidays, not only because of the nature of the season but also because of the deluge of year-end fundraising requests. Particularly for donors who have gifted in the past, those organizations will reach out again and again. A flood of requests starts arriving in November, and that is not by chance. Thirty percent of all annual giving occurs in December,1 and nonprofits are working to capture as many of those dollars as they can.

Americans are incredibly generous, too, donating $499 billion to U.S. charities in 2022.2 Despite that generosity, there is still a tremendous need that is compounded by the challenge of stretching cash donations amid rising costs.

“Recently we've been through a  high inflationary environment and nonprofits are struggling,” says Justin Flach, managing director of wealth strategy for Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank. “So, if you have the capacity to give, now is a great time to do so. However, just because you’re bombarded with different requests doesn’t mean that you have to be reactionary with your giving.”

Charitable giving strategies: How to say “yes” with confidence

It takes a firm mindset to become a philanthropist who gives with real purpose. Ascent helps its clients develop strategic philanthropic plans so that they can focus their giving for more impact and find joy in using their resources to benefit others.

By identifying philanthropic focus areas, over a set period of time, such as one, three or five years, families incorporate the giving priorities of rising generations and intentionally direct their philanthropy toward charities that are aligned to their values. In this way, charitable giving may have greater meaning for the family and the family may create a bigger impact with their dollars, potentially benefitting from important tax savings as well.

“Storytelling is a great way for families to bond around philanthropy, appreciate the true nature of generosity and pass on a legacy of philanthropy to younger generations.”

- Justin Flach, managing director of wealth strategy for Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank

Holidays and the end of the year are ideal times for families to discuss their strategic philanthropy plan and the philanthropy they’re involved in. If your family has a foundation, for example, discuss your shared values as it relates to your mission statement and take an inventory of what that the foundation has done over the past year, such as grants it’s made. Then focus on the future. Some topics to explore might include:

  • Strategies and goals for the next few years
  • How to incorporate more family members into the decision-making process
  • Ways to engage rising generations in the family philanthropy

“There is a business component to philanthropy, and if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” says Flach. “When families get together at the end of the year, they have an ideal opportunity to explore and encourage generosity across all generations.”

Family philanthropy: Three tips for creating next-gen philanthropists

For many families, philanthropy is not just a way to benefit others. It’s also a way to pass along shared values, including the responsibility that comes with wealth.

There are a number of creative ways to develop a legacy of family philanthropy and charitable giving across generations at year-end family gatherings.

  1. Tell stories: Sharing stories about philanthropy can be inspirational. Consider asking family members to share their favorite giving moment of the year. The answers might be a particular volunteer experience, or the story of a particular donation that came to life. “Storytelling is a great way for families to bond around philanthropy, appreciate the true nature of generosity and pass on a legacy of philanthropy to younger generations,” says Flach.
  2. Create a philanthropy challenge: One exercise that Ascent has done with multiple families is a philanthropy challenge. The matriarch and/or patriarch of the family challenges the younger generations to research an organization or cause that they would like their grandparents to support. Although it’s a friendly competition, it often ends up driving a lot of thoughtful research and formal presentations, notes Flach. “What the grandkids don’t know is that the grandparents often end up giving to all of the organizations, but it really makes the grandkids think about how they want to give, where they want to give and why they want to give,” he says.
  3. Volunteer as a family: The concept of time, talent and treasure is an important message to highlight for end-of-year philanthropy. “No matter how much money you plan to donate, volunteering and involving your family in that volunteer work allows you to see the impact on the communities served firsthand. It makes philanthropy so much more personal,” says Flach. Volunteer work can also be a great way to pass that legacy of philanthropy to the next generation of children and grandchildren, he adds. “Values are more caught than taught, so the act of volunteering as a family allows all generations to experience generosity.”

Research shows that 10% of all giving occurs on the last three days of the year.1 A strategic philanthropic plan and thoughtful approach can guide your family’s charitable endeavors year-round.

Learn how Ascent can help you be creative and purposeful with your family philanthropy.


1. The Ultimate List of Charitable Giving Statistics for 2023. NP Source.

2. “Charitable giving in 2022 drops for only the fourth time in 40 years: Giving USA report.” AP News, June 20, 2023.

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