Family Philanthropy Playbook for Community Foundations

Unit 4:  Facilitating Families

This unit helps you learn and practice skills in facilitating family conversations and meetings. Some foundations choose to hire external experts to manage longer or larger family meetings rather than develop and maintain internal expertise.


READ: Facilitating Family Meetings

Facilitation is best learned through practice, but here are some starter resources to ground you in facilitating philanthropic families:

  • Designing an Effective Family Meeting (Wise Counsel, 2017) – consultants Susan Massenzio and Keith Whitaker provide advice on agenda design and typical activities at longer family meetings.
  • Facilitation Fundamentals (TPI, 2007) [members only] – in this quick checklist, The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) and community foundation staff members outlined tips to define your role, set the stage, manage the meeting, and more.
  • Family Meetings Content Collection – this NCFP Content Collection provides ideas for how to craft better family meeting agendas that fit the specific needs of your members, keep your meetings on track, ensure you focus on the right things, accomplish your work more effectively – and maybe even have some fun!
  • Getting Started with Family Governance (Family Business Consulting Group) – while written from the viewpoint of family businesses, much of the thinking applies to family DAFs and foundations. It links to additional articles.
  • 21/64 301 Course – a handful of community foundation staff have taken the 21/64’s 301 course to sharpen their facilitation skills and roles as facilitators.  ($2,500+)

TUNE-IN (90 minutes): Family Philanthropy Webinar—Demystifying Decision-Making in Family Philanthropy [members only]

Facilitator and mediator Ann Shulman leads a discussion about several approaches to making decisions in family philanthropy. Also see Ann’s related Passages issue brief that can be helpful reading for the founders of DAFs and other philanthropic tools.


TUNE-IN (79 minutes): Family Philanthropy Webinar—Avoiding Avoidance: Addressing and Managing Conflict [members only]

Conflict will always occur in an organization that’s growing, evolving, and changing. In this NCFP webinar, two family foundation advisors provide tips on making conflict productive and helping families not to avoid necessary conflict. Also see the related Passages issue brief.


TUNE-IN (85 minutes): Family Philanthropy Webinar—Finding common ground, valuing different views [members only]

Families and foundation boards across the country wrestle with diverging values, various religions and different political persuasions. In this candid, behind the scenes look at two family foundations, NCFP explores strategies and techniques to promote civil discourse.


DISCUSS (45-60 minutes): Family Philanthropy Case Study: Different Styles [members only]

This case study, for facilitated group discussion with your staff, describes the challenge a community foundation faced a family clashed over differing philanthropic styles and power sharing. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) developed it for community foundations in 2007.


DO (2-4 hours): Two-Part Family Philanthropy Case Study: Couple and Family Meetings [members only]

This two-part case study first gives you practice in navigating your first meeting with a couple and then managing a second meeting with the couple and their two children. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) developed it for community foundations in 2007.

The role play exercise requires at least seven people—a facilitator, four people to play the family members, and two people to play the foundation staff members. It also requires the staff members’ familiarity with TPI’s Giving Together: A Workbook for Family Philanthropy or similar tools and processes. You can break the case study into two or three parts depending on the time you have available.


TUNE-IN (60 minutes): Topical Call — Supporting Differing Family Learning Styles [members only]

As you plan to support or facilitate family conversations, your materials and preparation need to be useful across generations and learning styles. In this 2019 topical call, adult education specialists Jenna Ott, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Noble County, and Betsy Peterson, Executive Director of Learning to Give, share their insights on managing differing learning styles.


TUNE-IN: Topical Call — Virtual Facilitation [members only]

Geographically dispersed donor families can often benefit from virtual facilitation when convening about their philanthropy. Youth philanthropy alum Danielle LaJoie from the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Janice Simsohn Shaw, facilitator and consultant, offered tips and tools for virtual facilitation success.

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