Strategic Philanthropy: Maximizing Family Engagement and Social Impact

For the sake of family cohesion and engagement, many family foundations base their grantmaking on the varied personal interests of their trustees. The unfortunate result is a scattershot grantmaking portfolio, with limited social impact. Conversely, a family foundation risks excluding family members if they are not interested in a shared programmatic agenda, minimizing the unifying potential of the foundation. The challenge is to find the balance in that tension. Many families have found that more strategic grantmaking actually helps build family cohesion by creating a shared experience for family members.

In this Passages Issue Brief, family foundation board member and consultant Ashley Blanchard discusses how family foundations can transition from a giving approach based on trustees’ disparate interests, to a more focused and strategic approach based on common values and interests. Focusing on her own experience, as well as the experience of other giving families that have made a transition to more strategic grantmaking, Blanchard demonstrates how more focused philanthropy enhances family cohesion, deepens trustee engagement, and makes for more effective philanthropy.