Best of “Ginny’s Blog”

About this collection: A "best of" collection of NCFP Founder Virginia Esposito's writing on governance, family dynamics, embracing the next generation, the role of the donor, and more.

Over the years, NCFP President Virginia Esposito has written on any and all topics related to family philanthropy, providing a vast array of wisdom and context for donors just getting started, for families moving to the critical “cousins generation,” and for those families looking to embrace the fifth (or later!) generation. Here we share a “best of” collection of Ginny’s writing on governance, family dynamics, embracing the next generation, the role of the donor, and more.

Trends in Family Philanthropy

The Promise of Even Greater Possibilities

Blog Post
What distinguishes giving families are the dual goals they bring to their philanthropic giving: goals for charitable purpose and goals for family participation. What unites them all is a very personal passion, a commitment to the legacy of their families’ values and vision and a commitment to philanthropic excellence. As …

Considering the Choice to Spend Down is Good for Philanthropy

Article
For much of the 20th century, the vast majority of U.S. foundations operated under the idea that they would be in business forever. But as a new generation of family philanthropists take over — a growing number are deciding that they would rather grant their assets during a set period …
Ginny Esposito

Fifteen Years, Ten Trends: Then and Now

Article
“Democracy does not give the people the most skillful government, but it produces what the ablest governments are frequently unable to create; namely, an all-pervading and restless activity, a superabundant force, and an energy which is inseparable from it and which may, however unfavorable circumstances may be, produce wonders.  These …

Passages Issue Briefs and Special Reports

Family Philanthropy Transitions: Possibilities, Problems and Potential

Passages Issue Briefs
Even if your family foundation or fund is very new, chances are you have already experienced at least one transition in the lifecycle of your giving program. What have been the keep turning points in the life of your fund from the founders' initial concept to the present? Which transitions …

The Power to Produce Wonders: The Value of Family in Philanthropy

Report
Little is known about the value private family philanthropy represents in our society and the essential role it plays in our democracy. This special report, developed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NCFP, provides an overview of the value of family involvement in philanthropy.

Motivations for Family Giving: Donor Roles and Legacy

The 6 Motivations for Family Philanthropy

Article
Why does your family give? This question is central to the work you do — because it helps understand the motivations behind your foundation’s mission.

How We Give: Ten Tips for Donors and Families

Article
There is a lot of justifiable attention paid these days to some of the BIG questions about philanthropy and the philanthropic process: Why give? How much to give? What to give to? What difference does it make?

5 Questions to Help You Align Your Giving Values and Practices

Article
Today, the practice of philanthropy is under continuous review – and not just by our critics or those who look suspiciously at big endowments. Those who want the very best for our field and the greatest impact for our work are also looking beyond why we give to examine the how.

Honoring the Legacy of David Rockefeller

Article
But I will never forget that December day many years ago when a check arrived from David Rockefeller. Back then, I got to open the envelopes myself and what I pulled out looked like a personal check. I stared at it for a very long time, absorbing what it meant …
Ginny Esposito

Grace, Gratitude and Generosity

Article
One of my favorite NCFP publication titles, Grace, Gratitude and Generosity, was used for our Faith and Family Philanthropy journal more than a dozen years ago. When we used it, inspired by one of the Journal’s authors, I felt it had meaning far beyond that one publication; I still …
Ginny Esposito

Embracing the Power: Perpetuity or Immediacy

Article
“Although there is some debate in philanthropy about the question of perpetuity, in the end no single correct approach is right for all donors.  The decision to create a foundation for the ages or for the moment is a highly individual choice.  It should be guided by the philanthropic goals …

Good Governance: Board Roles and Responsibilities

From the Balcony: Perspectives and Reflections on Trusteeship

Article
“As I see it, there is no other way that as few people can raise the quality of the whole American society as far and as fast as can trustees and directors of our voluntary institutions, using the strength they now have in the positions they now hold.” – Robert K. …

Why Your Board Chair Needs a Job Description

Article
Successful family foundation board chairs are able to both drive action and manage egos — and are often the difference between a foundation deftly navigating challenging situations and being tripped up by them.
Ginny Esposito

Qualities of a Good Trustee

Article
“As I see it, there is no other way that as few people can raise the quality of the whole American society as far and as fast as can trustees and directors of our voluntary institutions, using the strength they now have in the positions they now hold.” ~ Robert K. …

Spring Cleaning- Time to Organize Your Policies and Practices

Article
Spring must be here. Washington, D.C. is showing off cherry blossoms and red tulips and my travel schedule has gotten a lot busier. This month I have been invited to speak at a few family foundation retreats and my hosts must all be in “spring cleaning” mode. Everyone seems …

Good Governance: Board Renewal

Renewal and the Healthy Family Foundation

Article
How does the “B+” or even the “A+” organization stay that way, vigorously committed to the revitalizing promise of renewal? And what can members of newer family foundations learn from those who have successfully been meeting these challenges?
Ginny Esposito

Renewal: You and your giving

Article
Renewal is critical. It reenergizes your commitment and revitalizes your sense of purpose. It can help you see a new solution for an old situation. The same is true for revitalizing your foundation or fund. Here are a few tips for planning your philanthropic renewal – from the simple strategy to …

Renewing Your Commitment

Article
The process of emerging from a long, gray winter is a cause for celebration. Extra sunlight and the reintroduction of the stunning colors of nature are also extraordinarily energizing. I suppose that is why some take to spring cleaning. Since I am rarely inspired to clean, I personally prefer to …

When the Conversation Moves from the Family Room to the Boardroom

Article
One of the great opportunities of family philanthropy is spending meaningful time with those you love and know well. The challenge of family philanthropy is to avoid the stereotypes and patterns you are used to when you move out of the family room and into the boardroom.

Family Dynamics

Family Giving and Fairness: 8 Lessons Learned

Article
Many of the philanthropic families who call on me for help in doing their best possible work in the best possible way invariably reach a point where they say they want a system that is fair to the family. Most start by wanting family fairness as a means to doing …

Rowing the Philanthropic Boat Together: Reflections on Consensus and Civility

Article
A foundation needs trustees who can work together productively, but it does not require that they be unanimous in their opinions or uniform in their outlook. …A foundation’s extraordinary potential for good springs from its board’s ability to act as a collective, to be cohesive in fulfilling its …

Engaging the Next Generation

Generations Together: Tools for teaching the next generation to give

Article
According to the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s recent 2015 Trends Study, nearly 3 in 5 U.S. family foundations engage younger family members in the foundation — and more than 40% say they expect to add to or increase the number of younger-generation family members on their boards in just the next four …

Twelve tips for successful succession

Tool
This checklist of twelve strategies for successful succession includes suggestions such as: encourage children in their personal accomplishments; embrace all the family in the work of the philanthropy; and articulate your family’s values and develop a mission statement, guidelines, and practices based on these values.
Ginny Esposito

Tips for Philanthropic Growth: Children, Not Dollars!

Article
For more than 30 years, I’ve been talking with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles about bringing up healthy, happy, productive children in a philanthropic family. What I’ve come away with – and continue to share with others – are five keys. At the risk of over-simplifying a complex responsibility, I offer …

Four Critical Elements for Generational Succession

Article
Dear FGN Readers: The National Center for Family Philanthropy fields hundreds of questions about family giving over the phone, through email, and in person every year.  Thousands more use the Family Philanthropy Online Knowledge Center to search for answers on their own in the thousands of articles, sample documents, and …

Adding New Voices and Raising Charitable Children: a Family Responsibility

Article
In a year when we are focusing on helping philanthropic families deal with transitions most effectively, it is exciting that Family Giving News’ February edition features the recent report from 21/64 and the Johnson Center on Philanthropy on next generation donors.  Welcoming a new generation to philanthropy is one of the …

Summer, Sharing, and Vacations: Activities for Children

Article
It’s summer and a young person’s fancy turns to …philanthropy? Well, perhaps more than you might think. I ran into a friend recently and she told me her college freshman daughter was off to Nicaragua. Sarah belongs to a group that organizes charitable field trips for young people – …