Chronicle of Philanthropy

paintbrushes and bowls, isa working in background

My parents gave me a great deal— love, stewardship, security — all of which I took for granted until I sauntered out of their immediate care. But more importantly, they impressed upon all of their children the importance of paying it forward, of passing along good fortune to others. For decades my parents stewarded their own family foundation and then left that legacy to their children. Their generosity of spirit seemed automatic, nor did they worry about recognition or accolades. Their mantra: “Give and give more.”

Thanks to their vision and generosity, my husband and I now guide our own small family foundation. By the time we assumed stewardship of our Foundation, philanthropy was changing by leaps and bounds. I realized I had homework to do. I began reading and talking to the pros. My friend Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, gave me the most valuable counsel: “Why don’t you write a column to help hone your focus, share your experience with your family foundation, and explore this singular space of philanthropy?” I wrote my first column What You Should — and Shouldn’t — Do When Meeting With a Donor and submitted it to The Chronicle of Philanthropy with my fingers crossed. I knew no one on staff, but my article made it online and into print. Several more articles followed and morphed into a regular column. The feedback was mostly positive and I encountered scores of people working towards a better planet. I am still learning as I go, but there is no shortage of inspiration.

Here are the links to the rest of the series:


10 Ways to Be a Better Donor. “As a donor myself, I know donors sometimes have expectations that can be difficult to manage. Here are ways you — the donor — can build successful relationships with the groups you support.”


You Should Ask for an ‘Exit Interview’ When a Donor Stops Giving- Here’s How to Do It. “In these days of outsized giving when fundraisers focus heavily on capturing high-end donors, the value of mid-tier donors often gets overlooked. This is especially true when the giving stops. To ensure your organization’s continued success, it’s important to understand why you lose your midlevel donors.”


Social Media Etiquette for Grant Makers and Grantees. “Ten years ago when I joined Facebook, I never dreamed social media would be so consequential in our lives or the philanthropic world. And yet here we are. Giving drives, nonprofit updates, invocations to do good, and nonprofit mission statements proliferate on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.”


Why Money Shouldn’t Trump Mission When Choosing Board Members. “Nine trillion dollars is a hard number to put into context. It is roughly the combined gross national product of Britain, France, and Germany. It is also the amount the next generation will inherit in the United States within 10 years. The philanthropic community is poised to reap some of this wealth, and we need to have honest conversations about the windfall if we want to maximize its potential to do good. An important part of that conversation should concern how nonprofits will adhere to their missions amid the infusion of cash — particularly as they select trustees.”


What It’s Like to Experience Sexism as a Donor. “A few years ago, a young colleague invited me to a party to meet his boss, executive director of a global nonprofit and a former scion of Wall Street. Some cursory research beforehand revealed that we had a mutual acquaintance who served on a board with the nonprofit leader. When introduced, I brought up the connection, but he displayed no interest. Instead, he talked about his volunteer work and tossed around household names like confetti. As he spoke, he scanned the room without so much as a sideways word of inquiry.”


What Fundraisers and Donors Should Learn about Varsity Blues Scandal. “This fall, millions of young adults will pour onto college campuses, some for the first time. The college years are fabled ones — full of green quads and intellectual promise, a rite of passage for those fortunate enough to attend. However, the admissions scandal last year showcased the tarnished side of collegiate life — desperate parents, greedy institutions, entitled children —and has put universities and their donors on notice.”


Why We Place Our Family Foundation Assets in Socially Responsible Investment Vehicles. “Recently, on a plane, we were flipping through an issue of The Economist, which made us feel smart, when a full-page ad made us freeze, mid-flip. Beneath a photo of a giant wind turbine, a big, bold type asked, “Is my life sustainable? What about the way I invest? Can I do good and do well? The ad, from global financial services titan UBS, is an eye-opener. It reveals just how far socially responsible investing has crept into the mainstream and indicates that funds focused on environmental, social, and governance improvements (often referred to as ESG funds) have become a selling point for large financial firms.”


Post-Pandemic, One Family Foundation Leader Shares Her Plans to Give More and Simplify. “The pandemic pushed all of us into dark places in varying degrees. Our two teenagers struggled, but we were lucky to have the option to stay safe at home. Meanwhile, I had to navigate another kind of threat — I was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. Plodding through this passage became inextricably linked to my pandemic experience. But now we can see a break in the heavy weather.”

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