The Power to Produce Wonders: First Ever Report to Examine the Value of Family Participation in Philanthropy
Based on two years of research, this 2010 report from the National Center for Family Philanthropy is the first ever in-depth examination of the value of family philanthropy to the family, to communities and to democracy.
The report is the culmination of a research and education initiative that sought the perspectives of 300 family philanthropy leaders through individual interviews, discussions at 14 regional symposia and sessions at a national symposium in Washington, DC. We are able to offer this complimentary copy of our new book thanks to grants from National Center supporters.
“Despite the scale of giving and more than 100 years of charitable history, the values, processes, and contributions of organized family philanthropies are not well understood or appreciated for what they ultimately accomplish – including by some who benefit from their gifts,” Esposito said in explaining why NCFP undertook this research. “Perhaps of greater concern, the value of family philanthropy eludes many who might begin a family giving program as well as those charged with shaping the public policy that encourages and monitors this practice.”
The report covers four key questions:
- How does philanthropy add value to the lives of donors and their families?
- How does the personal participation of donors and family members add value to the giving process and, more importantly, to the results and impact of that philanthropy?
- What challenges affect each philanthropic family’s capacity to be effective and trusted stewards of the resources they manage for the public good?
- What value does family philanthropy represent as a component and reflection of the proper functioning of democracy and democratic institutions in the United States?
The report identifies a number of the value-added characteristics of a family’s involvement in philanthropy, including:
- Passion and Entrepreneurial Spirit: passion often drives a donor and philanthropic family; entrepreneurial spirit and instinct complement and reinforce that passion.
- Roots: Geographic and experiential roots inform and inspire giving interests and style.
- Commitment and continuity: The ongoing participation of family generally means the ongoing commitment to specific causes and organizations.
- Power of the Name: The names of philanthropic families often serve as an imprimatur when families encourage grantees to let other potential investors know they fund them.
- Responsiveness and Flexibility: Philanthropic families possess freedom to act quickly when needed, to act on convictions and to act on new knowledge.
- Values: The charitable impulse is a result of values and the decision to organize one’s giving tends to guide philanthropic family's grantmaking and management decisions
The report also presents a variety of challenges facing families engaged in philanthropy including:
- Deciding Who is Family and How They Will Participate: Families must make these decisions in the best interests of the foundation or fund, and not on basis of personality.
- Managing Family Dynamics: Families must ensure that the dynamics that can challenge any family do not visit themselves in a negative manner on the giving as well.
- Engaging in Collective Action: Family philanthropies cannot stop at individual values and interests, but must push forward to the goal of articulating and implementing shared values and common purpose.
- Balancing Personal Philanthropy and Responsibility: Family philanthropies that are actively committed to preparing the next generation for participation must find ways to train young family members to govern the foundation and allocate its resources wisely, while not discouraging them from pursuing their own charitable giving and volunteering.
- Fulfilling the Public Trust: The pursuit of excellence in giving – the commitment to the best possible conduct and practice – is to earn the public trust that makes this privilege possible. That trust is critical to a family fund’s ability to continue to do its work and to the ability of all families to engage in private philanthropy.