Founders of family foundations often seek to give back to their communities, but many also hope that the business of philanthropy will hold the family together long after the founder has passed away. As the Wall Street Journal reports, keeping the younger generation engaged isn’t easy, especially if they don’t feel a connection to the charities the foundation supports. One of the best ways to pass on the flame of philanthropy is to share the history so that grandchildren and great-grandchildren know why the foundation was formed and can be inspired by the donor’s intent.
Recently, we worked with a medium-sized private foundation to document the founder’s philanthropic vision. Like many founders, this donor did not leave a clear statement of his philanthropic intent. We wrote a short biography to capture the character and personality of the founder. We also researched and developed a history of his giving and synthesized from his letters and speeches a statement of his philanthropic vision. As this foundation transitions from a first generation of board members who knew the founder to a new generation, this key document will help inspire and guide the foundation’s future giving.
We’re excited by the model we’ve developed for documenting donor intent and look forward to helping other private foundations inspire the next generation of philanthropic leaders.