Why I Started a Family Foundation: a Collection of Donor Legacy Statements

Each and every donor has a different set of motivations for establishing a family foundation. While not “official” statements of donor legacy, this collection provides a sample of the limitless array of hopes and dreams that donors have for their philanthropy.

I established my family foundation for a variety of reasons, some of which I understood at the time and others that I have only now begun to appreciate. I recognized that I had been sufficiently successful in my business to provide for my family and to leave a contribution to my community. I’m not sure I realized how difficult this decision would be to implement and how much I needed to learn.

My own experience, which I suspect is not much different from many others, has taught me the difficulty in planning intelligently, in giving to others thoughtfully, and in teaching my children to participate in the process. I started my foundation the same way I had run my business. I retained control and set the course. Over time, I have learned to step back and invite others in.

My initial direction was to focus on big gifts, make a big difference with a few important organizations, and become personally involved in the process. I joined the boards of several of these organizations and found myself immersed in the activities of the recipients. I learned in a short time the real contribution that these institutions are making in the community. I also learned how difficult it is for them to raise funds. I saw some inefficiency in the process, but I picked up some valuable ideas about grantmaking, donor recognition and community service.

In recent years, our foundation has become more focused on our own style of philanthropy. We enjoy stimulating the same entrepreneurship in organizations that we profited by in business. For us, the innovative, the creative and the bold offer some new direction in education, arts, science, and human services.

As my wife and I became more comfortable with our own role in the foundation, I began to realize the benefit that this entity could have on our children. Each brings a special insight and talent that can serve our foundation well. I never cease to marvel at how much my kids have to say when I stop talking.

Throughout the last several years, we have learned by listening to our professional advisors, involving them in the foundation’s administrative activities and grantmaking opportunities, and by seeking the counsel of other founders and participants in large and small foundations and associations. We’ve much more to learn, but some of our mistakes and certainly much of our uncertainty would have been avoided had we a single source of written guidelines to consult.

I thought that, when I began to withdraw from my active business life, I would have endless hours of rest and relaxation, and feared that I would suffer boredom and indifference. My involvement in philanthropy, including my own foundation and many of the organizations we chose to support, has immersed me in a new and challenging world. I am busier than ever, using my skills and experience, and learning as I go.

Establishing and running a family foundation is not for those easily bothered by rules and regulations. On the other hand, for those who enjoy giving to others, who like to see the effect of caring on one’s own children and grandchildren, and who want to leave a legacy for the future, then I welcome you to the world of philanthropy and the family foundation.

George N. Boone
Boone Family Foundation, San Marino, California
Year established: 1983

Our foundation started really as a corporation foundation for the purpose of “smoothing out” our donations to the community. After the momentous tax change in 1969 the foundation was restructured and operated as a family foundation. This was strictly a one-generation operation for a number of years, but when our children became interested and started contributing to the foundation we expanded to a two-generation style.

In June 1995, we drastically revised our by-laws and now we have third generation members. Now they too are becoming interested, and some will soon enjoy Board of Directors as well as member status.

Charles T. Beaird,
Charles T. Beaird Foundation, Shreveport, Louisiana
Year established: 1960

My wife and I felt that ever greater numbers of children were falling into the at-risk category, especially in southern Wayne County with its financial restraints. We therefore started the foundation to focus on at-risk children in southern Wayne County. Our children are our future, and each of us has a moral obligation to prepare them for the tomorrow that we have created.

John Colina,
Colina Foundation, Southgate, Michigan
Year established: 1992

My wife and I started our family foundation in order to have a vehicle for doing good in the community long after we are gone. Now our five adult children have become involved, and they seem as interested as we are in helping our society.

The focus of the Lois and Richard England Family Foundation’s grantmaking is to support human services, education, and culture in the Washington, D.C., area, and Jewish causes locally, nationally and worldwide.

Richard England,
England Family Foundation, Washington, D.C.,
Year established: 1990

The disease of alcoholism was tearing apart our family until the afflicted member found the way to treatment, rehabilitation and re-unification with the family. Our family unit came back together, and led by the recovering alcoholic, began growing again and thriving in the full glory of God’s Grace!

Each member of the family recognized the wonders of our Salvation and together decided that we, the Hanley Family, should attempt to help others suffering from chemical dependency find their way to sobriety, stability and God’s Grace.

The Hanley Family Foundation seemed to be the most effective and sensible mechanism to carry out our plan. We started and have continued those contributions to the foundation which are tax-effective. We have an estate plan which will see the foundation being the recipient of essentially all of the founding families resources. First generation currently operates the Hanley Family Foundation but second and third generations are increasingly involved as they get prepared to operate the foundation when it becomes their turn.

J.W. Hanley,
Hanley Family Foundation, Roaring Gap, North Carolina
Year established: 1994

My husband, Larry Hite, started our family foundation in 1987 with an initial gift of $250,000, following some success in the investment business. He saw a foundation as enabling him to plan for his charitable giving during the remainder of his life and to do this giving in a more thoughtful manner. A major factor in his decision was that the foundation would serve as a wonderful example to his children, who were seven and five years old at the time. It would be a legacy, that they would hopefully come together to run as adults and that would provide them with a common goal.

Though it still remains small, our family foundation has grown considerably since its inception, as my husband has continued to add to his initial investment. We currently give away over $300,000 a year, with a significant portion of grants falling within the $15,000 to $35,000 range. My husband and I are the primary trustees and together with a consultant I am responsible for managing the foundation. Though we make grants in a number of different areas, one of our special interests is child welfare policy, a concern sparked by my own much earlier experience as a social worker with children in foster care. This background has give me a good perspective from which to evaluate the work of prospective grantees and has helped to clarify funding goals.

We are now giving thought as to how to involve our daughters, currently aged 17 and 20. An initial hands-on introduction to the foundation was given to each girl when she became a junior in high school. Working with a consultant, each girl was given the opportunity to make a grant of $5,000 to an organization of her choice. This involved discussions to determine a focus of interest and site visits to nonprofits before reaching a final decision. Our older daughter made a grant to an after school program in Newark and our younger daughter has selected a photography program for children at a museum. This is a start to what will hopefully become a lifelong endeavor.

Sybil Hite,
The Hite Foundation, Summit, New Jersey
Year established: 1987

Philanthropy was not a tradition in my family of origin, so it was important for me to create an institutional structure with which my children could identify. I find family business partnerships often result in conflict; family philanthropy often brings us closer together. Each family member is encouraged to pursue his or her own passions, to be engaged, and to experience what it’s like to be the asker as well as the giver.

Swanee Hunt,
The Swanee Hunt Family Foundation, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Year established: 1981

Both my husband George and I come from first generation Russian immigrant families. Both of our parents fled to the USA because they believed that great opportunities were in America and they wanted to be part of the American dream. When something good or wondrous happened to us, my mother would always say, “Only in America could this be possible.” So, as soon as we were financially able, we started RGK Foundation to pay back and thank America for giving us the opportunity to achieve some of our dreams and to help others achieve their dreams.

Ronya Kozmetsky,
RGK Foundation, Austin, Texas
Year established: 1966

Having started a manufacturing business with my father after World War II and working with it for thirty three years, we found ourselves liquid and debt-free for the first time in our lives when the business was sold! My wife and I realized that our personal desires and needs were not many. We decided that we had an opportunity to begin to repay the country, state and community that had afforded the opportunity for us to develop the company. We formed the Lipscomb Family Foundation with some of the assets obtained from the sale.

The Lipscomb Family Foundation was originally created to assist five institutions, all within the state of South Carolina. Our goal was to continuously add assets to the foundation in order to build the corpus to a level where it would generate enough return to do significantly meaningful things. Between 1980 and 1996 we were able to increase the corpus 550 % through additional gifts and good management, while distributing more than twice the original funding of the foundation.

In 1994 we recognized that our four daughters had developed an interest in the foundation. We brought them onto the board and began their training. Attending foundation training sessions and conferences have given them excellent broad and specific training in the business of responsible, creative philanthropy. We quickly realized that to coordinate board meetings with these training meetings is very effective scheduling for our family. We extend our stay at the conference site one or two days; focused board work is done expeditiously without the distractions of every day life.

We believe that involving the next two generations while the founders are still active will, hopefully, pass our vision on to the young people of the family. Participation of our daughters and their children (on a limited associate level) has become a forum for building closer family ties and forming cooperative interests and projects. Our daughters and their families live in four different parts of the country. Each has interests and philanthropic concerns where she is. We decided to give each of our daughter’s families ten percent of the annual grant funds to use for those needing assistance in their respective communities. Our daughters are now encouraging their older children to be involved in grant research where they live. Our grandchildren, through the ten percent allotment of their mothers, have begun to learn what responsive, responsible philanthropy is.

The balance (sixty percent) of the grant funds is partially used for support of the organizations that have been major interests of the founders over the years. Each grant request stands on its own merit as decided by the board. All board members are involved in reviewing grant requests and have an opportunity to approve or disapprove the grant.

Our city, state, educational institutions, museums, hospitals and church have enriched the quality of our lives. It was a very natural decision to attempt to give back a small measure of the goodness that we and our children have received for so many years. As a family we have grown close, become more sensitive to the needs of others and are learning new concepts daily as we seek to be good stewards of our blessings.

Guy F. Lipscomb,
Lipscomb Family Foundation, Columbia, South Carolina
Year Established: 1979

Upon the sale of my educational publishing company, I wanted to take advantage of the limited opportunity under the tax laws to make a large charitable donation without naming specific grantees. This allowed me and my family to join together in investigating, over time, areas of elementary/high school education where we might be able to contribute our knowledge as well as our financial resources.

Our family has all been involved in education; my wife and I as publishers; my eldest son as a high school math teacher; and my youngest son as a part-time company employee and as a graduate business school student involved with a total quality management program.

We saw a foundation as a way to continue our work in education in new ways, without the necessity of requiring projects to be viable commercially. We initially hoped to find ways to improve the professional development of teachers in ways beyond what we had been able to do as publishers. Our foundation has focused many of our efforts into this area since we began, and we have been pleased to collaborate with other foundations and educational institutions toward this end.

I hoped that our foundation would serve as glue to help our family come together with a common purpose. Since establishment of the foundation my children have married and had their own children, and we are including the spouses on the foundation board. I am even more hopeful than I was originally that the foundation will provide all of us with a vehicle through which to articulate shared values and a means for achieving purposes which will enhance society while strengthening family bonds across generations.

Alfred L. McDougal
McDougal Family Foundation, Chicago, Illinois
Year established: 1994