As those who read this newsletter may remember, the National Center’s Tenth Anniversary is being celebrated with a major research, education, and advocacy initiative that explores the value of family participation in philanthropy and the value of family philanthropy in our society. Our initiative is rooted in the firm belief that there is extraordinary value in both; the work of the study is to better understand and articulate that value. A recent trip to the annual conference of North Carolina Network of Grantmakers confirmed both of those values in concrete and inspiring ways.
It is one of the great privileges of my work that I travel the country meeting donor families and their staff partners. No one who spends time with these grantmakers could doubt the value of the passion, generosity, and optimism these remarkable families bring to their personal commitment to the public good.
Nor could you question the value of family philanthropy to our communities if, like me, you were lucky enough to take a tour of Greensboro, North Carolina and experience Action Greensboro. Action Greensboro is a coalition of government, civic leaders, business, nonprofits, media, and education – in partnership with and supported by area foundations. I was guided through Greensboro by Skip Moore of the Weaver Foundation, and his deep pride in his community – as well as in his fellow family foundations and other grantmaking partners – could not have been more evident. He spoke of how foundations and civic leaders came to appreciate the need and desire to renew the vitality of Greensboro, develop small business, improve public education, and enhance the downtown area with public art, parks, urban housing, and new business.
I experienced the same community pride when I met with Susan Schwartz, former executive director of Action Greensboro and now executive director of the Cemala Foundation, another extraordinary local family foundation. Together with the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, the Tannenbaum Sternberger Foundation, the Toleo Foundation, the Moses Cone Wesley Long Community Health Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Weaver and Cemala and their business, government and nonprofit partners have created something that is both stunningly ambitious in its scope and intensely personal in its roots. The people of Greater Greensboro and North Carolina will benefit from their ongoing commitment for a very, very long time.
As I think about our anniversary initiative, I know we will do all the due diligence necessary to ensure that our methodology is sound and there is integrity to our findings. But, like the grantmaking process, sometimes that methodology comes to life in one great site visit. Or, in my case, in one great trip to North Carolina – or any one of hundreds of other American communities where family foundations live, work, and dream.
Virginia M. Esposito
President, National Center for Family Philanthropy