‘Tis the Season …. The Season of Gifts.  We figure out those who will receive the gifts, we research, we wrap, we ship, and we anxiously await word on whether our gift was a hit.

For family philanthropy, such gift giving is a way of life.  You’re in the happy – if challenging – position of making smart, successful gifts to those you’ve selected.  For many of you, that giving goes on throughout the year; for others, it’s a one-time event (usually around this time of the year).  It can be difficult (is preparing a board book the gift equivalent of Black Friday?).  It can be uplifting.  And, it is always, always rewarding – maybe in unexpected ways.

It is a true joy of my work at the National Center for Family Philanthropy that the gifts come all year:

  • A published copy of a study I’ve worked on for quite awhile arrives on my desk;
  • A new Friend of the Family makes a much-appreciated contribution;
  • I travel to a city where I’ve been invited to make a presentation and am the joyful recipient of new friendships and inspiring stories;
  • I go to a National Center Board meeting and am reminded of the extraordinary volunteer leadership that guides the mission and direction of our service.

And it goes on – much to my delight and to my endless gratitude.

Two weeks ago, the gift was truly spectacular.  After much planning, preparation, wrapping and shipping, I participated in the National Center’s first-ever retreat for veteran family foundation chief executive officers – our “Seasoned CEO Retreat”, for short.

Opportunities to be with your colleagues in groups small enough to be meaningful and memorable are increasingly rare. Indeed, for many of the participating CEOs this kind of retreat was a first in their long service. There were times for open conversation and times for discussion inspired by informal presentations. What an amazing few days!  I learned so much and I grew in my knowledge of and respect for those who hold these important positions. I was frequently in awe and often deeply moved.

Throughout it all, I couldn’t help but hope that those who were the primary recipients of this gift – the attending CEOs – were getting as much out of it as I was. I know I speak for the CEOs when I thank the boards and staffs who made it possible for them to get away from the office, the colleagues who candidly shared their experiences, and all those who helped to develop the program – especially our host/facilitator, Phil Henderson of the Surdna Foundation.  And, I know I speak for the National Center when I promise that our commitment to family philanthropy leadership – CEOs, boards, staff members, family, and volunteers – was only strengthened by this retreat.  More such retreats, workshops, studies, and resource material will be on the way to support your philanthropic gift giving.  (In fact, the date and faculty for our second annual Trustee Education Institute has been set for May 8-10, 2013!)

My gratitude to the CEOs who participated in the program and to all who give the gift of leadership so that family philanthropy continues to flourish.  Together with your grantee leaders, you work to make all our communities stronger, safer, healthier, more tolerant, more beautiful, and more joyful places to live.  And that’s a gift we can all enjoy.

Virginia M. Esposito President, National Center for Family Philanthropy