Spring may quickly be a fading memory but the spirit of spring – renewal, re-imagining, and reinvigorating – is alive and well in the world of family philanthropy. Let me share a few examples to inform and inspire your own giving and, hopefully, to encourage you to share your own renewal efforts with me.
Recently I had the enormous privilege of being with a special family as they worked to ensure their foundation was well positioned to move into the fourth and even the fifth generation. The current board gathered with the fourth generation for two days of foundation business, family business, informal gatherings and a full day of retreat programming designed to prepare for the future. The energy and commitment of every member of the board and family were inspiring and laid the groundwork for a very productive day.
Taking the time to check in, to review mission and goals, to ensure there is both common understanding of those as well as full commitment, and to think about how all of this prepares you for the future is an invaluable use of time. In this case, family members came from as far away as Myanmar to do this work (and that’s a travel commitment!). They considered governance and succession, changing interests and priorities and how those guided a family with an historic legacy and tradition, and – like many of you – struggled with the increasing geographic dispersion of family members that had long had a place-based focus.
The agenda they created may take several years to work through and implement but they are on their way. Change in that family foundation will be the result of their planning, direction, and involvement; they’ve chosen to determine their future rather than let inattention create unintended – and unwanted — consequences.
Change in that family foundation will be the result of their planning, direction, and involvement; they’ve chosen to determine their future rather than let inattention create unintended – and unwanted – consequences.
The National Center for Family Philanthropy is also planning for the future: for the field and for ourselves. I am delighted to announce the Resources for Building Next Generation Leadership collection that we have been developing with the wonderful support of Youth Philanthropy Connect, a program of the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation. You can look forward to a new Passages Issue Brief, many case studies, and a new Special Focus area of our Knowledge Center. We’re particularly grateful to Annie Hernandez and Katie Marcus Reker of YPC for both their expertise and enthusiasm in working with us.
Finally, many of you are aware that the National Center for Family Philanthropy has been celebrating our 15th Anniversary and a very special capstone for that celebration takes place on July 11th with our 100th Family Philanthropy Webinar. We will look back at changes and milestones in family philanthropy over the past 15 years – and look ahead to the changes we might anticipate over the next 15. Former board chairs Tom Lambeth, Mary Mountcastle, and Valerie Lies join current board chair Carrie Avery for a conversation with me about this dynamic field. I hope you’ll plan to join us and participate in the conversation.
As you catch your breath after your spring responsibilities – including renewing and re-energizing your own giving – I hope you are also planning some great time this summer for your own renewal and re-energizing. As Paul Ylvisaker, the late family foundation trustee and philanthropic advisor, once encouraged:
“Guard your own humanity. The first ethical commandment… is to take care of yourself. This is not acting for number one; it means taking care of what you are or should be, so that you can radiate that out to others. If you lose your own soul – whether to arrogance, insensitivity, insecurity or the shield of impersonality – you diminish the spirit of philanthropy. The goal to aspire to is that you will be a distinguished human being who gives to the foundation as much an identity as you derive from it, and far more than the money you give or negotiate away. In a very real sense, you are philanthropy.”
With so many families working on their giving and planning for a strong future, philanthropy is in very good hands. Count on us to support your efforts and, as I encouraged at the beginning of this letter, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) how you’re doing.
All the best,
Ginny Esposito President, National Center for Family Philanthropy