A Year with the Giving Family

This year, the National Center for Family Philanthropy celebrates ten years of inspiring family giving. To mark the occasion, Family Giving News invites you to spend “A Year with the Giving Family.”

What follows is a calendar of activities designed to engage you and your family in a new philanthropic endeavor or to reinvigorate an existing family giving program. Each month in 2007, in addition to Family Giving News’ regular features and profiles in family philanthropy, we’ll revisit these activities with new ideas and stories on how your philanthropic family can plan, act, evaluate, celebrate, and innovate in the new year and beyond.

This proposed calendar may proceed too quickly for some groups and too slowly for others. Our hope is that we can provide you with some practical ideas that will make your giving together more meaningful and effective. A happy New Year to all and happy giving!

Planning (January-March)

  • Assemble a giving team. Whom would you like to involve? Parents, siblings, children? Close friends or colleagues? Would you like to work within an existing giving program or do you want to start something new?
  • If you’ve already been giving together, identify and discuss areas of satisfaction with your efforts, and areas that you think need strengthening.
  • Re-examine personal values. Recall a book or film or article or event that caught your attention and informs your thinking. List your values. Consider using a workbook such asInspired Philanthropy by Tracy Gary and Melissa Kohner to guide your discussions together.
  • With the group, decide on a common set of values. Bring your personal values to the group, and look for areas of common ground. Depending on your group, these areas could be fairly narrow and specific, or they might be broad and general. In either case, look for a convergence and build from there.
  • Begin to think of the kinds of work that supports these values and the groups doing that kind of work. Team members may need to do some research on the Web or ask knowledgeable people in the community (or those already funding your issues) for ideas.
  • Begin listing several nonprofits you’d like to support in some way to act on these values.
  • Decide on an amount to be distributed. Will this money come from the group? From an existing philanthropy? How much?
  • Develop a set of evaluative questions. What are your goals in supporting each nonprofit? How will you know your goals are being met? What are your expectations?

Action (April-June)

  • Decide which members of your giving team will speak with each of your potential grantees about the kind of support they need and about your group’s expectations.
  • Contact prospective grantees and discuss your options. Determine which organizations are working in your interest areas and, in general, whether their results have been positive to date. Report back to the group about your findings.
    Decide as a group which nonprofit or nonprofits will receive grants and for what amount.
  • Now that you have decided to invest financially, consider how else you might support the work of these grantees. What talents, skills, interests and connections does your giving team possess? How might this capital be tapped as well to support your new grantees?
  • Draft an informal plan for each major grantee that outlines not only your hopes for what the grant will accomplish, but also includes the other ways your group can be involved.
  • Make the grants, and where possible, get involved.

Making a Difference (July-September)

  • Make a site visit if you’re not already working with the grantee in some other way.
  • Contact the grantee and discuss successes and challenges.
  • Evaluation can be problematic on a scale such as this—one year and possibly a relatively small grant. Nonetheless, revisit your evaluative questions. Is this grant meeting your expectations? Why or why not?

Celebration (October-November)

Talk together about what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. Share what this has meant to you with the rest of the team. When you’re ready, share your observations with others outside your team, and with representatives of the nonprofit itself. If your group is pleased with your process and what you’ve learned through your interactions with your grantees, think about ways to share the learning with others.

Innovation (December)

  • Finally, think about what remains undone. What else might your team be able to accomplish, perhaps done differently, in the new year? If you could do things over again, what would you do differently?
  • More broadly, think about your efforts over the course of the year. How much of your current philanthropy is the result of careful planning and reflection upon your values and your goals for the future? How much of your grantmaking is done in consultation with the needs of the groups with whom and for whom you make grants? How often and in what ways do you evaluate whether or not you’re accomplishing your philanthropic goals? Do you pause to celebrate and share the achievements of your nonprofit colleagues with others?
  • Resolve to innovate in the new year for another year of inspired family giving.

Portions of this article have been adapted from an article that appeared in The Cursor (Portland, OR: Software Association of Oregon, February 2000), written by Dianna Smiley.