Back in 2015, The Wall Street Journal published an article on family foundations and how they can help families pass on their philanthropic values to future generations. The basic lesson from this article is that in order to be effective, family foundations must invite family members from all generations to have a real voice in decision making, particularly in board service.


Even though this article appeared nearly five years ago, the challenge of engaging the next generation of philanthropists remains alive and well. Here in my state of Maine (which happens to be the oldest state in terms of demographics), many nonprofit organizations are grappling with the same issue. I have been asked countless time about how to effectively reach out to Millennials and Gen Z. To many, there appears to be a great divide between the more veteran volunteers who are serving on nonprofit boards and younger folks who are raising their families or who are just embarking upon their careers. The same is true within family foundations, where the dynamics between the generations are also personal and where the younger generation may have very different priorities and means of engagement than the generation who created the wealth that is being administered by the foundation.


The secret to engaging Millennials and Gen Z? Ask them. Ask them to get involved. Ask them for their advice. And be prepared to hear it and do something about it.