Our History

The National Center for Family Philanthropy is the only nonprofit resource dedicated exclusively to families who give and those that work with them. With extensive expertise in governance, grantmaking, planning, evaluation, and more, we are uniquely positioned to help emerging philanthropists and mature foundations and funds improve their work and expand their effectiveness.

The National Center was founded 14 years ago in response to the need for a national resource center dedicated to serving the needs of specific donors and their families. Philanthropic families are united in a common commitment to both family and community. Despite the extraordinary contributions of these families, the field was ill-defined and largely ignored in mainstream philanthropy until the late 1980s, when National Center Founding President Virginia (Ginny) Esposito, then a vice president at the Council on Foundations, planned the first-ever conference sessions on family philanthropy. By 1994, the Council approved Ginny’s proposal for a three-year Program on Family Philanthropy, which attracted the interest and support of outstanding leaders in the field. Informal talks over many months led to a growing convergence of views that the field needed an unbiased national resource dedicated solely to philanthropic families, whatever their chosen vehicle. With financial support from key funders, the Center launched on September 3, 1997, in Washington, D.C.

Since then, the National Center for Family Philanthropy has worked to serve the motivational, educational, and networking needs of donors and donor families. We have:

  • Created literature for the field by publishing more than 40 titles : books, issue papers and journals, including the first-ever comprehensive guide to starting a family foundation
  • Produced groundbreaking research studies on multi-generational giving, the motivations of donors, the role of the estate planner/advisor in giving, the practices of family foundations, and the capacity of community foundations to meet donor needs
  • Presented more than 750 workshops and speeches to some 10,000 attendees and extended our educational reach by offering monthly teleconferences to networks of donors, individual donors, and advisors wherever they are located
  • Provided approximately 5,000 online visitors per day with the only website in the world devoted exclusively to family giving
  • Developed the most widely read e-newsletter for donor families and their advisors, Family Giving News
  • Created the award-winning Family Philanthropy Online Knowledge Center, the largest searchable database of resources on family giving
  • Fielded multiple requests for information on a daily basis
  • Helped almost 100 organizations develop a program for serving donor families
  • Given countless print and broadcast media interviews on family philanthropy topics
On the occasion of our 10 th Anniversary, the National Center for Family Philanthropy launched a new decade of insight, impact, and growth that will enrich the future—not only of our own organization, but of all those who have a role in advancing effective family giving.


89 percent of American households give. 55 percent of Americans volunteer.