A Legacy Lives On: The Kaplan Family Foundation’s Successful Leadership Transition

[Photo: Members of the next generation of the Kaplan family gather to discuss strategy.]

Ask any family member and they are usually able to identify the current family leader. This is the person around whom everyone gathers; the person who takes responsibility for family networking, intervenes in family disputes, reminds others of the family’s history and generally serves as the glue that holds the family together. And when this family matriarch, patriarch, or other family leader dies, sadly many families struggle to maintain their shared bonds.

As the National Center for Family Philanthropy continues its ongoing focus on the topic of transitions, this Passages Issue Brief shares the Kaplan family’s experience with transition—the factors that contributed to their success and those that challenged them—in hopes of helping other families who will inevitably face leadership transitions of their own. Of course, each family foundation is unique and what has worked for the Kaplan family may not be appropriate or practical for other families. Family culture, values, size, and staffing are just a few of the variables that can influence how a family might navigate a leadership transition. But families facing leadership transitions will typically confront the same fundamental questions the Kaplans grappled with:

  • How will we work together moving forward?
  • Should we even keep the foundation going?
  • How can we integrate the next generation?
  • What should we focus on, given our generational and geographic diversity?
  • How can we honor the family legacy?