How do you define family philanthropy? It’s a question I’ve heard several times since joining the National Center for Family Philanthropy in May of this year, and one that has passed by my lips as well. Luckily, I only have to turn to the person who has “defined” the field of family philanthropy over the past two decades—National Center for Family Philanthropy President Virginia Esposito.

“It’s about choosing to carry out your giving as a family, with some level of organization and ongoing commitment,” says Ginny. At the National Center, we pride ourselves on understanding and appreciating the myriad approaches that families take with their giving and our newest project is a great example: the first national study of family philanthropy through the family office.

Many families are increasingly turning to family offices to help them manage their investments and financial dealings while also handling a variety of other personal services, from family governance and legacy planning to health care, next generation leadership development, and philanthropic giving. Earlier this year, the National Center joined with Threshold Group and Family Office Exchange to survey and interview family offices throughout the country that also house a family foundation.

Our goal was to shed light on a unique structure that combines a business office focused on financial results with a philanthropic entity that measures progress in very different ways. What we found was an approach that works very well for some families, but isn’t ideal for all. Not surprising given the spectrum of families and the range of expectations and goals for their giving. But there are clear steps that families can take to create the conditions for success with this structure, and our new study shares these ideas as well as mistakes to avoid.

You can read about these and other important findings in the report released this week, Working Together for Common Purpose, which is available on our website at and covered in this issue of Family Giving News. 

Regardless of how you approach your family’s philanthropy, there is always the opportunity to learn from others on the same path. We’re pleased to be sharing that journey with you.