This month’s Family Giving News features a topic of special importance to me – how we take best advantage of the wisdom and experience of family philanthropy’s senior leaders. Doing so is important on so many levels.
Professionally, the role of senior family leaders is fundamental to who we are as philanthropic families. It reflects our sense of legacy, values, inspiration, and mentoring. How we embrace those whose senior years are healthier, longer, more experienced, and possibly more committed than ever before to the family’s charitable goals is a challenge that all hoping to extend this tradition into the future may face.
Personally, I owe so much to so many of these senior leaders. I would say countless but the truth is I count them – and count on them – every day. There are so many who took the time to answer my questions, share a story, challenge my thinking and, all the time, support my inquiry. This weekend I am off to Connecticut to celebrate the life of one of those leaders. Sally Bowles worked with me in founding the Council on Foundations’ family foundation program and gave her time, talent, treasure and much-needed humor to the development of the National Center. She leant her chief executive talents to the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, her trustee skills to the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, her nonprofit energy to the founding of the Peace Corps, and much more. Her intelligence, wit, and great grace are deeply missed.
Finally, the way we engage our senior leaders will say so much about our success in preparing and engaging new generations for this important work. My hope is that we are in the midst of making a critical shift away from emphasizing the passing of the philanthropic torch to the more exciting, multi-generational work of sharing it.
The excerpt included in this issue from Alice Buhl’s new Passages issue paper on senior leaders builds on her longstanding interest in this topic. Her new interviews combined with the wisdom and perception that comes from her long experience with philanthropic families have resulted in a terrific paper. Her second Passages on this topic, I hope we can look forward to even more information and insights on something of such strong interest to family philanthropy.
And, speaking of senior, I am delighted to report that this month we celebrate the 14th Anniversary of the National Center for Family Philanthropy. Those of us who believe in and support the work of donor families owe so much to the volunteers, funders, interviewees, and others who have given time to advance our mission. If you have ideas for how we continue this work as we launch our 15th year, I hope you will let me know in the comments section below, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!