Mary PhillipsIs Philanthropy More Effective Without the “Family Dynamics” in Family Foundations?

By: Mary Phillips In: 2013 Family Philanthropy Conference| Family Philanthropy| Governance| Philanthropy

23 Jan 2013

Blessed are the family foundations graced with harmonious board interaction, for they may be focused on their grantmaking. Running through case studies in preparation for our session at this month’s Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference in San Jose, I am struck by the power of a grantmaking program rooted in community ties, family values, well-researched issue areas, and long-term strategic planning. Free from family governance issues, these grantmaking case studies focus outward on communities, programs, and execution.

This daydream of mine got me thinking. Without the “family dynamics” on a foundation’s board, would a family’s philanthropy be less complicated?  Maybe. But here’s what might go missing:

  1. Passionate debate and well-developed ideas
  2. Inclusive decision making
  3. Shared values and common heritage
  4. Joyful consensus
  5. Sense of place
  6. Shared nurturing of younger generations

Families who work through their more complicated moments do get to the business of grantmaking, with stronger connections to one another and to their communities, and a greater understanding of one another and their common goals.

Measuring the value of these dimensions of family philanthropy is difficult. “Priceless” comes to mind. Just ask a family member at the conference in San Jose.

Mary Phillips is a founding director and president of GMA Foundations. She will facilitate the session, “Turning the Page: Realigning Your Foundation’s Grantmaking Strategy,” at the Family Philanthropy Conference on Monday, January 28.

1 Response to Is Philanthropy More Effective Without the “Family Dynamics” in Family Foundations?


February 14th, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Great introduction Mary. I love it! Every board can benefit from “family dynamics”, as every member of the family brings in differences in thoughts, ideas and contribution which can strengthen us all. At the end of the day, such differences adds to our shared values and common heritage. Thanks for the sharing, you make a difference to the world.

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