[Editor’s note: With the Council’s Family Philanthropy Conference set to begin on Sunday, January 31, we asked our 21 conference bloggers to tell us a question they think family philanthropy needs to explore as the San Diego conference begins. Here’s Audrey Jacob’s answer. Jacobs is director of The Center for Family Philanthropy at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.]

The Council on Foundations’ Family Philanthropy Conference is an opportunity for me to think about what matters most in family philanthropy. At The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, we focus on engaging families as philanthropists. Thus, at this year’s conference, one simple issue I’d like us to focus on is the value of family in family philanthropy—the power of philanthropy to transform lives individually and collectively.

In Atlanta, our fund advisors connect with family members through visits to nonprofit organizations, family meetings, developing family timelines, service projects and grantmaking. Each of those aspects of philanthropy is work. It is strategic; it is thoughtful. It requires coordination, planning and sometimes compromise. But the results are often tremendous! Families develop strong relationships with nonprofits they learn about and support. And families become stronger, and closer in the process. 

  • We see the value of family in family philanthropy in many ways: When one of our donors’ daughter’s decides to take photographs of children at a local children’s shelter called Our House because she wants parents to have holiday photos of their children. She believes homelessness and poverty should not be a barrier. Her passion comes from growing up volunteering at local shelters with her parents; and grantmaking with her family.
  • We see the value of family in family philanthropy when children participate in our Planet Philanthropy program. At the end of the program day, they are inspired by the grants they’ve made, they return home and inspire their parents to become even more engaged.
  • We see the value of family in family philanthropy when a young couple spends time prioritizing their interests and giving up significant possessions to focus on philanthropy as a family.
  • We see the value of family in family philanthropy when a donor’s two 20-something daughters lead the family in their annual family meeting. They are strategic, focused, confident and smart. And they educate and engage their spouses and father.

As Hannah and Kevin Salwen, fund advisors at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, launch their book, The Power of Half, I think about the value of the philanthropic journey the entire family has embarked upon. I think about the value of the work on their future lives. Will their careers be guided based on the work they are involved in now? As a family, they have focused on philanthropy together. They have made life-changing decisions as a family and have positively affected others’ lives as a family. 

So, as you prepare to travel to San Diego this weekend, consider the impact family philanthropy has had on you as an individual, and on your family as a whole. I look forward to hearing your stories!

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