Great Quotes in Family Philanthropy

There’s been an interesting discussion going on for some time at the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s LinkedIn page on “Best Philanthropy Quotes.”

We’ve been following it for a while, and while there are indeed many great quotes included in the conversation, we’ve been a bit disappointed that only a very few of those featured come from donors – and few if any touch upon the passions, values and special challenges of family philanthropy.

With this in mind, we asked those in our Friends of the Family network to share some of their own Great Quotes in Family Philanthropy. We added a few from the National Center’s seminal report, The Power to Produce Wonders, and several more from NCFP President Ginny Esposito’s personal collection of favorites. Finally, we’ve included a few from a couple of well-known family philanthropists of the 20th and 21st Century.

We hope you enjoy this first-ever (that we know of) collection of “Great Quotes in Family Philanthropy.” Please be sure to share your own favorite quotes – from someone famous or from your own grandmother (or from your famous grandmother) – in the comments section below!

Great Quotes from NCFP Friends of the Family

“We have all drank from wells we did not dig; We have been warmed by fires we did not build; We have sat in the shade of trees we did not plant; We are where we are because of what someone else did.”

– author unknown, based on Deuteronomy 6
(submitted by Tony Macklin, Executive Director, Roy A. Hunt Foundation)

“You have to pour cold water over people warmly.”

– Jim Self, Founder, The Self Family Foundation
(submitted by Frank Wideman, President, Self Family Foundation)

“It’s not our money.”

– Katie Mountcastle, Trustee, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation

(submitted by Gayle Williams, Executive Director, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation)

“Are we a foundation that is family-centered or family-inspired?”

– Zac Russell, 23 year old, next generation family member who recently completed a six month internship on staff at The Russell Family Foundation

(submitted by Richard Woo, Chief Executive Officer, The Russell Family Foundation)

Great Quotes from 20th and 21st Century Family Philanthropists

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

– John D. Rockefeller

“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

– Mary Gates, mother of Microsoft Founder Bill Gates, in letter to Melinda Gates on the eve of their wedding

“It will be a minuscule portion of my wealth. It will mean they have to find their own way. They will be given an unbelievable education and that will all be paid for. And certainly anything related to health issues we will take care of. But in terms of their income, they will have to pick a job they like and go to work. They are normal kids now. They do chores, they get pocket money.”

– Bill Gates, from June 2011 interview in the Daily Mail newspaper, commenting on the inheritance his children will receive

“Wealth is not to feed our egos, but to feed the hungry and to help people help themselves.”

– Andrew Carnegie
(submitted by Carol A. Stabler, Director of Communications, The Meadows Foundation)

“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”

– Calvin Coolidge

(submitted by Carol A. Stabler)

“To laugh often and to love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of oneself; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – this is to have succeeded.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

(submitted by Carol A. Stabler)

Great Quotes from The Power to Produce Wonders: The Value of Family in Philanthropy

“Family foundations, for good and ill, have something of a personality that is different from other institutions, even other grantmaking institutions. That personality allows for more original initiative – more unconstrained thought about how to set and do the work of the organization. Sometimes you have a freedom, a quirkiness of character, that allows you to think of things and do things others might not.”

– Interviewee, The Power to Produce Wonders

“The challenge of family philanthropy is to find the “sweet spot” that honors the legacy of grantmaking and the innovation of the founder and yet finds a focus that works for making a difference today. It is harder and harder to do as generations go by.”

– Interviewee, The Power to Produce Wonders

“Family connectivity is a perfect antidote to how fast our society is running. Coming together in philanthropy can be the silver bullet to a society moving in different directions very fast. You stay connected and do work together that keeps you attached to your community or something topical.The work keeps you together with the people that matter to you.”

– Interviewee, The Power to Produce Wonders

“Democracy does not give the people the most skillful government, but it produces what the ablest governments are frequently unable to create; namely an all-pervading and restless activity, a superabundant force, and an energy which is inseparable from it and which may, however unfavorable circumstances may be, produce wonders. These are the true advantages of democracy.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville

Great Quotes from Ginny Esposito’s Personal Collection

“If the institution of private philanthropy is a remarkable social invention, its availability to families is equally remarkable. Society has offered families what is in effect a permit to engage independently in matters otherwise thought to be the public’s business. Philanthropy becomes a legitimate and ennobling process, elevating the accident of kinship into the loftier realm of civic participation and responsibility. The often narrowing confines of individual giving open into the broadening vistas of social concern.”

–Paul Ylvisaker, Conscience and Community

“…the vision of philanthropy in this new age must continue to be a matter of both the heart and the head. Pascal said the mind builds walls and the heart jumps over them. To be in philanthropy, however, is to refuse to accept the heart and the head as antagonists.”

– Ambassador James Joseph (former CEO of Council on Foundations),
from Speech:
 ”Evolving Visions of Philanthropy and the Public Good,”
at the 1995 COF Annual Conference

“…there is something distinctive and precious about family foundations that suggests they should remain as they are: a unique opportunity for families to make and leave their mark on the society around them, to share with others the fortune they have enjoyed and the creative energies they so often possess.”

–Paul Ylvisaker, Conscience and Community

“The returns on a family investment in philanthropy are – or can be – extremely high, both internally and externally. When such an investment is well executed, a family can achieve the cohesion that comes with a sense of higher purpose and cooperative effort. Family members report an excitement and fulfillment going far beyond what they had known as related (though often bloodied) members of a tribe.”

–Paul Ylvisaker, Conscience and Community

“Building a foundation on the fragile relationships that characterize any family is a precarious enterprise, but the returns are worth the risk and all the tensions that go with it.”

–Paul Ylvisaker, Conscience and Community

“Over time, family members change and program priorities change; what holds the family and its philanthropy together is the legacy of its values. This legacy provides continuity and our donor family believes it is that continuity – the family values – that gives the family philanthropy its special character.”

– Bruce Sievers in Living the Legacy: The Values of a Family’s Philanthropy Across Generations

“As I see it, there is no other way that as few people can raise the quality of the whole American society as far and as fast as can trustees and directors of our voluntary institutions, using the strength they now have in positions they now hold.”

– Robert K. Greenleaf, founder of the The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

Great Quotes: Thanks Mom

We can’t resist sharing a couple quotes featured in the Chronicle of Philanthropy discussion, both regarding mothers:

“God could not be everywhere, so he created MOTHERS.”

– Jewish Proverb 
(shared by Radha Stern)

“Life is short; therefore I shall be a crusader in the struggle against ignorance and fear, beginning with myself.”

– My Mom, an elementary school librarian, wrote this and taught it to her students for 30 years (shared by Dana Vickers Shelley)

…and the Winner Is

And finally, the editor’s personal favorite (this might have been helpful during Congress’s recent debate to extend the debt ceiling):

“It’s time for a Bud Light break.”

–Non-family board member (and former federal judge),
during an especially tense family foundation board conversation