Virginia Esposito, President, National Center for Family Philanthropy
Last week, the National Center for Family Philanthropy held its annual board retreat. We returned to The Pocantico Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in Tarrytown, New York for the first time since our first board retreat more than 15 years ago. We spent most of our first retreat developing our values statement and refining our mission and program agenda, so it was a fitting location for the work we had to do: Re-visit issues of identity, value, communication, while making tough choices among so many wonderful opportunities. After seven months of working with a pro bono Taproot Foundation team on these very issues, the advisory group was ready to present concepts, language, and a decision-making framework to the full Board. Because I think there is value in some of our work for family giving programs, I want to share a little of the process and lessons learned.
By Christine Sherry
Editor’s note: this month’s edition of Family Giving News features an excerpt from a forthcoming Passages Issue Brief on the use of field scans to improve your family’s philanthropy. Interested in getting a copy of the full edition when it is published next month? Let us know.
In days of scarce resources and seemingly endless philanthropic choices, family foundations and funds can frequently feel overwhelmed by options and unsure where to best place their philanthropic bets. Many funders wisely choose a focus area for funding, and then proceed to investigate – or be approached by – any number of apparently worthy organizations to support within that field. Most frequently, the questions that are asked are ones of organizational strength and track record: which among many groups are the best?
While these are crucial questions for any funder to answer, this approach often leaves out a fundamental question: how do I know that the strategy I am pursuing is the one where there is real need, and where my philanthropic dollars will be best utilized? How do I not re-invent the wheel, and how do I find those strategies where my scarce dollars can be most highly leveraged? Assessing an organization as a stand-alone entity or even in comparison to others in the field begs the question of what the larger framework for funding should be and how a given strategy fits against the broader funding landscape.
By Emily Tow Jackson, Executive Director, The Tow Foundation
I get asked this question often. How can a small foundation with few staff really catalyze large scale social change? In fact, how can a foundation of any size play this role? At The Tow Foundation, we have attempted to play a significant role in juvenile justice reform, an issue that seems like an intractable problem and not easily tackled by a small family foundation.
The United States leads the world in the rate of incarcerating its own citizens. We imprison more of our own people than any other country on earth and stand alone as the world’s leader in incarcerating young people. Every year, juvenile courts in the U.S. handle an estimated 1.7 million cases in which the youth was charged with a delinquency offense, approximately 4,600 delinquency cases per day. On any given day, over 70,000 juvenile offenders are not living in their homes but are held in residential placement (e.g., juvenile detention facilities, corrections facilities, group homes or shelters). An estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the United States. Most of the youth prosecuted in adult court are charged with non-violent offenses. These statistics are shameful.
By The Pierce Family Foundation
JJ Hanley faced a situation well known to nonprofit executives: the number of volunteers that wanted to help was outstripping the agency’s capacity to manage them. Operating with a small staff, volunteers were key to the success of JJ’s List – which connects people with disabilities with community businesses and services – and her late-night brain-storms of one weren’t getting anywhere. She had some ideas, but the challenge was new to her. Pay a consultant? Yeah, right.
Vital missions, visionary boards, few staff, and less money. How can nonprofit executives fill the gaps in experience and expertise created by lean budgets?
An innovative program by the Pierce Family Foundation in Chicago is offering ways to answer this and the gamut of questions that keep nonprofit executives up at night. Through their Peer Skill Share (PSS) program, the foundation connects staff among grantees to help each other answer questions ranging from how to use a piece of software to how to attract and retain volunteers or use social media more effectively, to how to better serve transgender clients.
The National Center joins the rest of the nation in our concern for the well-being of the victims from the recent Boston Marathon bombings. We’re pleased to offer this important update for funders around the country from our colleagues at Associated Grant Makers in Boston.
Two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, 125 funders from Boston and across the country participated in a teleconference on the philanthropic response to the bombings at the Boston Marathon hosted by Associated Grant Makers in Boston. Bob Ottenhoff, President, and Regine Webster, Vice President of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy provided the audience with guidelines for funding strategies to support the needs of a community in times of disaster. During times of emergency, immediate needs are being taken care of. It’s the intermediate and long-term needs that private philanthropy can play a key role in. One recommendation for donors is to align funding with their current population served by location or population related to the disaster.
FEATURED QUESTIONNAIRE: Managing and Preparing for an Influx of Assets
In 2013, the National Center is exploring several of the most important Transitions in Family Philanthropy. One key transition that many family foundations face at least once in their evolution is the sudden influx of assets that may occur for a variety of reasons: a new bequest as a result of the death of the original donor or family member, a sale of the family business, or some other liquidity event.
The National Center is currently working on a new Passages Issue Brief on the topic of “Preparing for an Influx of Assets” to explore this topic, and to highlight questions and strategies that families may wish to pursue in this situation. As part of this work we want to hear from YOU – family foundations who have either experienced an influx or are preparing for an influx to occur in the future. Please respond by May 15th to share your experiences through one of the following short questionnaires:
Friends Focus is a special feature of Family Giving News that highlights members of our Friends of the Family Network and their cutting edge work with family foundations and advised funds. Are you a current Friend of the National Center and have an update you’d like to share with Family Giving News readers? Email us. Interested in learning more about Friends of the Family? Go here.
Working to transform a community is difficult, sustained, and impassioned work, and finding creative tools for doing so can make all the difference. Recently, Richard Woo, CEO of The Russell Family Foundation, shared his experiences about a storytelling retreat hosted by long-time NCFP Board member Bill Graustein of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund in Connecticut and guided by Donald Davis, a skilled storyteller from North Carolina. “I count myself lucky to have been among this group of people brought together to practice the art of building community through story,” writes Woo. “We quickly learned that the path toward helping other people, organizations, and communities to share their stories, requires first embracing your own story—in all its glory and imperfections.”
This year the National Center is focusing its programming on two themes: transitions and community. In May, our webinar series takes a close look at the benefits and challenges of geographic dispersion of family and board members:
Evan Wood, 4th-generation family member and board chair of The Lawson Foundation, based in London, Ontario.
With family members living far apart, what steps can families take to build family identity and bonds that once evolved naturally from living in close proximity? How can family members whose lives have taken different paths forge a genuinely collaborative team driven by a mission derived from and embraced by the family? How are families balancing the commitment to the foundation’s “home town” and their growing concern for their own region? Using stories of families, this webinar will offer examples of how families have dealt with these issues including: honoring the legacy of the donor; defining a mission that accommodates individual interests and needs of different communities; maintaining high standards of grantmaking practices and evaluation strategies; and allocating funds equitably.
Featured presenters include:
- Una O. Osili, Ph.D., Director of Research, Indiana University School of Philanthropy
- Irene Siragusa Phelps, President, and Jack Siragusa, Board Member, The Siragusa Foundation; and
- Evan Wood, Chair, The Lawson Foundation
Friends of the Family and FP Online community members: please log in to the Family Philanthropy Online Knowledge Center to register for this exclusive webinar.
Editor’s Note: The National Center is delighted to partner in 2013 with the Bridgespan Group to feature videos from its Conversations with Remarkable Givers series. For our February edition in this series, we share Bridgespan’s interview with John and Laura Arnold, recently named to the Philanthropy 50 list of top donors of 2012 by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. To learn more about the goals and highlights of this remarkable collection, read the special introduction to this series from our January 2013 issue of Family Giving News by Bridgespan Partner Susan Wolf Ditkoff.
Steve Hilton, President and CEO, The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Indicates members of the National Center’s staff are currently scheduled to present at and/or attend this event.
May 8-10, 2013, Washington, DC: Trustee Education Institute: An Intensive Seminar for Family Foundation Trustees
May 13-14, 2013, Chicago, IL: Family Office Design and Best Practices (Family Office Exchange)
May 21-22, 2013, Detroit, MI: The Center for Effective Philanthropy National Conference
May 21-23, 2013, Washington, DC: Global Social Change Annual Conference, Edge Funders Alliance
May 29, 2013, Santa Monica, CA: 2013 Conference on Family Philanthropy:
Inspired Ideas, New Connections and Cutting-edge Trends
We offer special thanks to our Friends of the Family and Leadership Circle funders who support and sustain the work of the National Center. Our Leadership Circle recognizes a special group of our most generous supporters. Our Friends offer continuing support for our work addressing emerging challenges in the field, researching new and evolving philanthropic issues, and ensuring that future generations of donor families continue to have access to the best possible resources for sound decision-making in their work.
In turn, Friends and funders receive complimentary access to all of our services, including special groundbreaking research, personalized assistance for information requests, seminal literature, timely webinars, and the world’s largest online Family Philanthropy Knowledge Center.
We invite you to join them in their support of the National Center.
For more information on becoming a Leadership Circle member or FOF, please contact Maureen Esposito at 202.293.3276 or at email@example.com.
Leadership Circle Contributions
In addition to the list below, please check out our special new Pinterest board dedicated to thanking and recognizing the wonderful work of our many Leadership Circle members.
- Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
- RGK Foundation
- David and Lucile Packard Foundation
- Lilly Endowment
- Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund
- Meadows Foundation
- Walter and Elise Haas Fund
- Annenberg Foundation
- C.E. and S. Foundation
- Arie and Ida Crown Memorial
- Dyson Foundation
- Max. M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
- Flora Family Foundation
- Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
- Hyde Family Foundations
- Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation
- Mathile Family Foundation
- McKnight Foundation
- William J. & Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation
- Nord Family Foundation
- Proteas Fund of the Battle Creek Community Foundation
- Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation
- Surdna Foundation
- Wyncote Foundation
Contributions from current Friends of the Family members include:
Virginia Esposito, President, National Center for Family Philanthropy
Happily, it is Spring. Those in the Northeast may be wondering about that but I assure you, it is coming to you too. There is something about the spirit of Spring that, for me, embodies the spirit of family philanthropy. It’s renewal. Without the promise of new vitality, of renewing the promise of all that can be, what would be the meaning of all we’ve been through?
Renewal doesn’t mean a completely brand new day. Nor does it mean a rejection of all that has been. What have you been doing over this past year if it hasn’t been planting seeds, nurturing (and, yes, composting) and believing in all that would come? You’ve invested in your grantmaking and grantees. You look forward to the results of those investments, to hearing from your grantees about their progress and cultivating a new set of partnerships.
Maybe the promise of Spring is the opportunity to think a little about all that and more. How is your board doing? Are you happy that your management choices are giving you the organizational support you need? Are things going great right now? Are there issues on the horizon? Could some things be a bit better? Maybe it’s time to take a cue from Spring and do a little renewing. Oh, it doesn’t have to be the wholesale drama of my Spring closet cleaning. To extend the metaphor just a bit further, maybe you just need a little turning of the topsoil, a few seeds and some watering.
By Kelly Medinger
Whether you are a Facebook neophyte or a self-proclaimed Facebookaholoic, there is no doubt that Facebook and other social media platforms have changed the landscape of why and how we communicate.
So how does this landscape affect a private family foundation? Especially when the family’s privacy is paramount?
At the Marion I. & Henry J. Knott Foundation, we considered how to harness the power of social media to meet our mission of bringing the family together through philanthropy. This is the story of why and how we approached this undertaking.