Dear FGN Readers:

Welcome to a new year – here at the National Center for Family Philanthropy, we find ourselves energized and excited about the possibilities of the year ahead.

We spent much of the past year listening and reflecting. Listening to giving families about the challenges they face, and where we have provided the most value in navigating these challenges. Listening to leaders at organizations that support philanthropic families, including regional associations of grantmakers, community foundations and financial institutions, and reflecting with them on ways we can expand our work together. And listening to leaders in philanthropy and other sectors about how family philanthropy can play a bigger role in solving the critical issues that face our communities, our country, and the world.

We got an earful – much of it positive, some of it critical, all of it helpful. And as we reflected on what you told us – and what we know – and we developed a clearer picture of our unique value and where we need to go.

Which leads us to 2014. You told us that while there are many things that family foundations and giving families share with other philanthropic entities, there are some things that are unique to families. Issues like engaging children and growing families in a shared endeavor. Challenges related to wealth, family dynamics, and differences of perspective that play out in the boardroom and around the dining room table. And concerns about legacy and perpetuity that can be difficult, emotional and hopeful all at the same time. You need people and resources that understand this world, and you value our laser-like focus on family philanthropy.  Our knowledge and expertise helps you transform your values into effective giving, which in turns transforms lives and improves communities.

We are the only national nonprofit dedicated exclusively to families who give and those that work with them.  This is who we are–and in 2014 we will deepen our research and programming for giving families and those that support them.  Through our ongoing partnership with Youth Philanthropy Connect, we will significantly expand our resources focused on next generation family members, be they 50 or 15.  We will share the insights we’ve gained over the past 16 years about key transitions in family philanthropy, whether they involve people, assets, mission or structure. We’ll  inspire and encourage families to use new technologies, new data, new approaches and new perspectives that generate results and push boundaries in our rapidly evolving sector.

As valuable as our knowledge and expertise is, many of you pointed out that it’s not always easy to access it. In fact, it can be confusing and frustrating, with an outdated website and technology a step behind. So 2014 will bring exciting steps forward, including a brand new website and expanded social media and communications tools designed with your needs in mind. Our goal is to make it simple and engaging – and perhaps even fun — to access the information, services, and support you need to be more effective.

As we talked with you over the past year, you told us that coming together with other giving families is extremely valuable–you learn from each other, inspire each other, and find support in a community of peers. So we are ramping up our convenings in bold ways. The National Forum for Family Philanthropy, taking place May 7-9 in Cambridge, MA, will bring together giving families and leadership staff from family foundations and the array of networks and organizations that support family philanthropy for three days of inspiration, learning and connection. The National Forum will bring together leaders in philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, business, government, and academia to explore trends and innovations in the field. With a maximum attendance of 250 people, it will provide the type of safe and intimate environment you said works best for you–with plenty of time for relationship building with peers and colleagues, as well as your own family.

In addition to the National Forum on Family Philanthropy, we will expand our popular Trustee Education Institute, the only training specifically designed for trustees of family foundations. Planned for September 24-26, 2014 in Washington, DC, this year’s  Institute will offer tracks for first-time attendees as well as repeat customers–deepening your knowledge base and exploring a range of new topics. And we will continue to offer opportunities for CEOs of family foundations to come together with their peers to explore the unique opportunities and challenges inherent in bridging family and community.

There are many more things we have planned for 2014, but one bears special mention. We heard from many of you that the field of family philanthropy is not well understood. Not by those in other parts of the philanthropic and nonprofit world, and sometimes not even by those practicing it. Advancement requires understanding, so as we and others work to stimulate more ethical and effective family philanthropy, everyone would benefit from a clearer picture of how family giving is being carried out. In 2014 we will launch a national study of Trends in Family Philanthropy, in partnership with the Urban Institute in Washington, DC. We’ll kick off our research initiative at the National Forum on Family Philanthropy in May, and we will work throughout the year–in partnership with you – to develop a clearer picture of the practice, impact, innovations, and challenges facing the field. Over time, this benchmark study will be repeated to illuminate progress as well as obstacles in moving the fast growing, and rapidly changing field of family giving forward.

Thank you for giving us so much guidance and honest feedback over the past year. We heard you – and we’re ready to go!

Best,

Kathy Whelpley Vice President, National Center for Family Philanthropy