Three Takeaways from the Trustee Education Institute: Reflections from a Young Trustee

Upon arriving in D.C. for the Trustee Education Institute this March, I really didn’t know what to expect. My brother and I, both in our early twenties, had never attended a similar event, but were not surprised by the fact that we were among the youngest attendees. At the outset, my brother and I weren’t terribly excited to spend three days learning about foundations. Rather, we thought that we were just fulfilling an obligation on the path to becoming voting members of the Sewell Family Foundation.

So, walking into the session called “Legal Basics” I wasn’t too thrilled or optimistic about spending two hours listening to someone talk about finance law. However, this presentation turned out to be one of the most entertaining and illuminating of the entire conference. Andrew Schulz, the presenter, was extremely informative, but he was also – and unexpectedly – very funny! He made everyone feel as though they were capable of understanding and even enjoying the legal aspects of family foundations. After that presentation, I knew that my brother and I were in for a fun couple of days in D.C.

The final day of the conference began with a presentation by author David Grant on “Assessment and Evaluation.” This presentation was the most thought provoking for my brother and me. Listening to Mr. Grant discuss how foundation members can best evaluate how their foundation performs, as well as how each individual trustee performs within the foundation, sparked a fire within my brother and me. Upon our return home, we were determined to implement some of the tactics and tools Mr. Grant proposed within our family foundation.

The final presentation that stood out to me was “Successful Succession: Training and Engaging Next Generation Board Leaders,” given by NCFP President Ginny Esposito. Although the subject matter was geared primarily toward the more experienced board members in attendance, it provided a unique perspective for me as a third generation newcomer. Transition is rarely easy, and joining a family foundation board is no different. So it was nice to hear Ginny touch on some of the difficult topics we’ve been struggling with in regards to becoming full board members. Her presentation allowed us to consider one fundamental question: how do we remain true to the founder’s original intentions while still being able to bring our own ideas and projects to the table? Ginny helped me find a renewed respect for the original donor’s vision for our family foundation, and now I’m working on figuring out new ways to incorporate my own interests and passions with that vision.

Upon our return home, my brother and I gave our own presentation to the other members of the Sewell Family Foundation. We shared what we learned about board legalities, evaluation tools, and how we came to start thinking of our new roles in the foundation. My brother and I shared with our board, as I share with you now, that not only was TEI surprisingly enjoyable and engaging, but it also helped us to understand our roles in our foundation’s next chapter.

NCFP’s Trustee Education Institute provides a comprehensive introduction to all of the key legal, investment, ethical, grantmaking, and family dynamics issues facing family foundation board members. Register for the 2018 Trustee Education Institute today!

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