Fall is in the air and the transition to cooler weather and the holiday season is not the only one we in family philanthropy are experiencing.

Every family philanthropy experiences the joy, the sadness, the complexity, and the energy of transitions.  We welcome new generations of family members and new trustees.  A trustee or a staff member might retire.  We might refine or change our program priorities or prepare for an influx of new assets or (more likely) a declining stock market.  Preparing for these transitions and managing them well helps ensure we make the most of the opportunities they present.  Without such transitions there can be no renewal.  Whether or not your giving program is designed to exist in perpetuity, as grounded as you may be in the spirit of your founders and the family’s legacy of giving, all family philanthropy depends on the natural evolution of things and the new energy this evolution inspires.

One of family philanthropy’s great leaders passed away last month.  Ronya Kozmetsky, a founder of the RGK Foundation in Austin, Texas, was a remarkable woman and philanthropist.  Ronya and her late husband, George, were grateful for their opportunities and their successes and they celebrated both in their giving and in their wonderful family.  Ronya thought that philanthropy was so important that the RGK Foundation generously funded support for their fellow donors.

The RGK Foundation made a significant gift to the University of Texas to establish the RGK Center on Philanthropy there.  RGK continues to be especially generous to the National Center and has supported countless programs as the well as critical achievements in our organizational development.  Whether or not you ever met Ronya Kozmetsky, the chances are very good you’ve been touched by her giving and are in her debt.  Our heartfelt sympathies are with all her family, especially her son, Greg Kozmetsky, and her granddaughter and our board member, Sarah Kozmetsky Miller.

The National Center’s Board is also in transition as we thank Bill Graustein and Nancy Brain for their years of service and the generous commitment of their time, talent and treasure.  We’re not going to let these two wonderful leaders go too far.  We look forward to providing information on our new class of board members in next month’s issue.

Whether at RGK, here at the National Center or in your own family’s philanthropy, leadership transition is both natural and inevitable.  The National Center plans to help ease that transition with a new program next March 22 – 24 in Washington entitled “Governance Essentials: A Seminar for New and Prospective Family Foundation Trustees.”  Save the date and look for more information to come.

The recurring theme of generosity is appropriate to what is our Thanksgiving issue.  I often think of Thanksgiving as the annual holiday of family philanthropy.  I certainly take time to think about all of you who meet as a board or family around this holiday.  I celebrate the generosity of you and your founders as you commit your time and dollars to making the world better for all of us and those to come.

Finally, I marvel at who you all are as caring, generous people.  You never fail to make time for an interview study, to share your experience and wisdom with your colleagues, to help me think through an idea or a problem, or to give endless hours to being the best possible grantmaker.  As with Ronya, the field and all those touched by private philanthropy are so often in your debt and most will never know it.  But those of us at the National Center know it and are sincerely grateful.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you all.