Exploring Donor and Family Legacy

About this collection: This Content Collection provides suggestions on what to include in donor legacy statements, as well as sample legacy statements and stories of how families have translated legacy into grantmaking priorities and focus.

A donor legacy statement or video typically focuses on how the overall life experiences of the donors and their family inform and guide the grantmaking mission, strategies, and practices of the foundation. These statements may be written by the donors alone, by the donors with other family members, or, in cases where the donor is no longer alive, by family members or a long-time colleague.

This Content Collection provides suggestions on what to include in donor legacy statements, as well as sample legacy statements and stories of how families have translated legacy into grantmaking priorities and focus.

For an exploration of how the traditional concept of donor intent evolved toward the more robust idea of a living, family legacy, see NCFP’s 2001 Journal, Living The Legacy: The Values of a Family’s Philanthropy Across Generations.

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Adult hand holding child's hand - legacy

Legacy in Family Philanthropy: A Modern Framework

Report
Legacy is a fundamental consideration in the practice of effective family philanthropy, yet it remains one of the most ambiguous and often overlooked concepts in our field. Many families approach legacy with a retrospective lens—one that reflects on a philanthropic effort across a number of years or even generations. …

Death, Legacy, and Leadership Transition

Passages Issue Briefs
The death of a foundation leader or senior family member is likely the most emotional change a foundation will undergo. Suddenly, or not so suddenly, family members and the board face grief and loss, and also an onslaught of financial, legal, and organizational issues. How can you plan ahead, as …

Things We Wish Our Founders Had Told Us: Interpreting Donor Legacy

Passages Issue Briefs
This special NCFP Distinguished Fellow Essay by Susan Packard Orr explores the questions that Susan and her fellow trustees wished they had asked of the founders when they were still alive. From the introduction: This year marks the 20th anniversary of our father’s death. Our mother has been gone …

How Can We Prepare for the Death of Our Founder or Donor?

Ask the Center
In this month's edition of "Ask the Center," we are pleased to share a guest post from Suzanne Hammer, founder of Hammer and Associates, discussing the recent passing of her father: "In the midst of a loved one dying, there are many decisions to be made. There’s paperwork and …

Thrive at Five: The Secrets of Long-Term Family Philanthropy

Passages Issue Briefs
If you are a newer family foundation with one or two generations on the board, five generations may seem like a long time away. Yet in family philanthropy, quite a few foundations have been operating and thriving for 50, 75, even 100 years. What’s the secret of these family philanthropies that make …

Tips and Tools for Creating a Legacy Statement or Video

7 Tips for Creating a Donor Legacy Video

Article
A couple years ago I realized the Knott Foundation was approaching 40 years as a Catholic family foundation! The time was ripe to pause, reflect on our work, and find ways to commemorate the Foundation. Enter the idea of creating a donor legacy video.

From the Start: Questions for Donors and Family Members

Tool
Donors often seek effective ways to involve other family members from the start. Heirs, meanwhile, look for ways to appropriately honor the legacy of the donor(s). There are many questions and issues likely to be considered by both the donor and future generations. (Source: Living the Legacy: The Values …

Donor Legacy Statements, Values Statements, and Ethical Wills

Article
 I work for a small family foundation as their non-family executive director. The foundation has been in existence for 25 years. In the near term, I will be sitting down with the founder, who is preparing to write his legacy. I am wondering if you’re familiar with other founders who …

10 Questions to Help Start the Values Conversation

Article
Why you give matters just as much, if not more, than what you give. Whether you are talking about preserving wealth or giving it away, it’s important to be clear on the values that drive that decision. How many people have voiced their own values, held a conversation with …

Sample Legacy and Intent Statements

Donor legacy statement (Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation)

Sample
This Donor Legacy Statement communicates the original motivating forces for the establishment of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation as an environmental foundation, the values and interests of the founding donors, and the lessons learned from the early years of the Foundation’s operation to guide future stewardship and management …

Donor Legacy Statement: WHH Foundation

Sample
This 2003 letter from Bill Hurt, to the WHH Foundation Board shares his hopes and reasons for establishing the foundation, and provides specific advice regarding how he hopes future grantees will be evaluated and chosen.

NCFP Webinars

January 10, 2019

Family Stories and Interviewing Elders

Capturing and sharing your family’s history is critical to understanding and appreciating your philanthropy, providing a window into the rich heritage of your extended family. Elders in your family often have particularly interesting stories to tell, and can help family members of all ages feel more connected with the …
July 14, 2011

Seeding Family Tradition

Donor legacy statements and ethical wills have joined bylaws, values statements and mission statements as important documents for describing a family’s philanthropic activities and dreams. Join this conversation about these important tools for transmitting personal values and beliefs to future generations, featuring one of the nation's leading experts on …
August 13, 2009

Sharing Values Across Generations

Shared values are the glue that holds a philanthropic family together, and is a legacy that provides continuity to future generations. In this call, NCFP President Ginny Esposito will help you have a conversation, ask the key questions, articulate your family’s values, apply those values to your vision and …
March 8, 2012

Straight from the Source: Working with a Living Donor

The dreams, life experiences, and personalities of donors and donor couples are at the heart of family philanthropy. Everything from the family’s philanthropic focus and mission to the interaction with potential grantees connects to the legacy of the founders. Sometimes these legacies are living legacies, and there are special …

Donor Perspectives

Why the Raikes Foundation is Not a Perpetual Foundation

Article
People often ask me what we focus on at the Raikes Foundation (empowering young people to transform their lives) and how we do it (investing in capable people addressing under-resourced challenges where our dollars can have an outsized impact on the systems that serve youth.) 

The World Belongs to Our Children

Article
We live in a world of growing income disparities, human rights violations, increasing environmental concerns, political instability and ongoing global threats and atrocities. We will never have an impact on these issues until we enlist the help of those who will be 60 years old in 2071. Yes, I’m talking about …

From Legacy to Strategy

Gratitude and Humility in Philanthropy; from a Story, to a Value, to Action

Article
Authors and leaders throughout the field have published articles and tools (e.g. Grandparent Legacy Project) aimed to help families ask questions to elicit the core values of our founders. When we are able to connect our founders’ values to real-life stories, it can have a profound impact on our …

Aligning Your External Mission with Your Family’s Values

Article
In our day-to-day work in family philanthropy, we often worry about ‘what’ we do and don’t often pause to consider the ‘why.’ Perhaps we should also spend some concerted time thinking about the why — asking questions like, "Why is our family involved in philanthropy? What impact do we hope …

Additional Perspectives on Donor and Family Legacy

Susan Packard Orr on the legacy of her parents, David and Lucile Packard

Article
Editor’s note: the following is reprinted from Living the Legacy: The Value of a Family’s Philanthropy Across Generations, published by the National Center for Family Philanthropy in 1999. In a family foundation there is no question as to the importance of learning from the donors and carrying out their …

Legacy: the Helping Hand of Family Philanthropy

Article
It's important to attend to family foundation legacy or it will be forgotten. Stories and formal legacy statements preserve a 'usable' past while renewing values for the future....Telling stories and preparing legacy statements are ways to help harness the "constant" in family philanthropy.

In Loving Memory: the Pros and Con of Legacy Grants

Article
The loss of a loved one is difficult for any family to bear, and the desire to celebrate and honor his or her life and accomplishments is natural and common. For philanthropic families, if the lost family member has played a significant role in their giving, grief and sadness can …

Thrive at Five: Families Sharing Stories

Article
If you are a newer family foundation with one or two generations on the board, five generations may seem like a long time away. Yet in family philanthropy, quite a few foundations have been operating and thriving, for 50, 75, even 100 years. What’s the secret of these family philanthropies that make …