Susan Packard Orr Wonders: Dad, What Were Your Goals for Family Involvement?

In her recent essay, “Things We Wish Our Founders Had Told Us,” Distinguished Fellow Susan Packard Orr explores the questions left unanswered after her parents, the founders of the Packard Foundation, had passed. This passage is excerpted from the larger piece, found here

Since you put your children on the board at a relatively young age (21), we assume the intent was to include the family into the indefinite future. You also invited non-family board members to the table from the first meeting. Did you wish that the family should be the majority? Is it important to include all family voices, even if there are conflicts?

When you were at the table, we generally worked through consensus building, rarely actually taking a vote. Of course since you were there, we had no trouble coming to agreement. We knew whose vote counted! During your time you also set aside funds within the foundation to focus on issues that were very important to one of your children, even if the rest of the family was not especially excited about the program.

Did you intend the foundation to be a source of funds for individual family members to use to work on their special interests, or did you intend the family to work together on things that were of interest to the group as a whole?

If family members have widely disparate views, how would you feel about the foundation splitting into several foundations, where each branch could work on their own projects? Would you be disappointed that your legacy foundation is not as large as it might be? Or would it please you to see your children and grandchildren using the resources to pursue their own philanthropic dreams?

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