Family Philanthropy Playbook for Community Foundations

Unit 5: Advice From Peers

What advice do other community foundations have on offering family philanthropy services? You’ll find some good ideas in this Unit and you’ll see quotes embedded in other Units as you review them.


READ (20 minutes): Atlanta Center for Family Philanthropy Case Study (2006) [members only]

In 2006, the Philanthropic Initiative wrote this case study of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s Center for Family Philanthropy. It captures decisions made in the founding of the Center and in its first few years of service.


READ (10 minutes): Lessons Learned: If I Knew Then What I Know Now

An excerpt from Making the Commitment to Family Philanthropy: A Management Tool for Community Foundations, Bryan Clontz, 2005.

“We asked community foundations with the longest experience of offering family philanthropic services what they would have done differently if they could do it all over again.  Four areas for consideration surfaced repeatedly. These community foundations said they would:

  1. Examine whether offering family philanthropy services is in sync with the community foundation’s mission. If the answer to why we are doing this is not connected to mission, something must change. The connection to mission is the reference point for most of the big decisions about the form a family philanthropy program will take. These issues include: its focus, its reach, the policies governing its operation, and how it integrates with the community foundation’s other strategies and services.
  2. Be sure the design of the programs and services offered is well within the community foundation’s capacity to deliver. This may mean positioning the program to under-promise and over-deliver. Map costs carefully to ensure that revenue sources are available to cover the costs. For example, one foundation offered family philanthropy services to three distinct groups at three different points in time because of a timing concern and potential over-utilization.
  3. Make the move into family philanthropy an integral part of the community foundation’s strategic plan – not an isolated service. Family philanthropy inherently relates to program and development strategy, as well as the foundation’s professional advisor strategy. Ideally, as part of the bigger scheme, it promotes better internal alignment of energy, resources, and focus.
  4. Look at family philanthropy holistically and create a total package of services rather than letting the program evolve. Many community foundations described their approach to offering family philanthropy with words and phrases like “an experiment,” “testing the waters,” or “dabbling in it.” While proceeding carefully into an unknown and potentially costly territory is wise, a better way to do that, they suggest, is to delay launch and invest the time in careful planning. This eliminates, or at least minimizes, a constant change in focus and services that confuses prospective and current donors, and even potential partners, the board, and staff colleagues.”

TUNE-IN (60 minutes): CF Topical Call: Getting Started on Family Philanthropy [members only]

Many members of this network are just getting started with or working to establish best practices for their family philanthropy services. Jennifer Curry at Oregon Community Foundation, Donna Coury from Akron Community Foundation, and Amy Beth Dudley from the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis shared their experiences in this 2019 topical call.

Tune-In (41 minutes): CF Topical Call: Lessons Learned [members only]

Sometimes best laid plans don’t work. Colleen Hill, VP of Development and Donor Services at the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, and Lydia Clements, VP of Foundation and Corporate Partnerships at the Hawaii Community Foundation shared perspectives on experimenting with new initiatives and the lessons learned from the process.

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