Family Values Influence Philanthropy

February 22, 2012

I just returned from the Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference in Miami, a three-day event focused on education, the arts, impact investing, advocacy and family dynamics.  Amidst all of that great discussion, I was struck again by the importance of communicating family legacy.  

A family’s beliefs, behaviors and messages are carried down through generations, and how this happens does matter.  

One memorable speaker, Sharna Goldseker, suggested we think about the messages that are communicated within our own families about money, obligation and values.  She asked us to consider whether or not we intended to convey the same messages to the next generation, and how we might best do that.  

I know from my own experience that one question that frequently arises for families engaged in philanthropy is how can the values and behaviors of one generation be honored by a succeeding generation that also wants to represent its own values and address new issues?  How can you achieve a good balance?

As Sharna reminded us, we define and redefine our family legacy by how we act on it.  One generation can help the next generation of family members, for example, by having open, honest conversations about their legacy.  Or even by leaving a letter addressing the issue.  In fact, each of us, regardless of who we are, should take the time to talk about legacy with other members of our family.  

I will continue to explore and integrate these concepts in the work we do at CCF with our donors and their families.

Thanks for reading.

Nichole Baker
Vice President, Development and Donor Relations
California Community Foundation

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