Changes in family philanthropy

Mark PetersenVision

While family philanthropy is frequently created as a vehicle to ensure the perpetuity of funding charitable causes, one should not think this means that a foundation never changes. Family philanthropy is ever-evolving. The foundation you knew a decade ago has shifted in the intervening years. In some cases, the foundation you knew even last year has also shifted significantly. Creative new priorities are being emphasized, availability of funds has diminished or dramatically increased, and the composition of decision-makers in the family foundation is markedly different through marriage, divorce, death, or coming of age.

Life is full of changes. We see this so clearly in the world that surrounds us. William Bridges states, “Throughout nature, growth involves periodic accelerations and transformations: Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to happen — until suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms, the tadpole’s tail shrinks away, the leaf falls, the bird molts, the hibernation begins. With us it is the same.” (1)

Our clients often receive requests for funding that no longer align with their new stated priorities. Perhaps the internet is to blame, with its ever-accessible, eternal dataflow which keeps old, obsolete data as well as the new stuff. Charity giver databases, available so freely online, often contain data that is no longer consistent with the foundation’s focus. Take all that information with a grain of salt, and try to go to the source to obtain the freshest information.

We encourage our clients to update their public priorities annually – these are available under our Clients tab and refreshed every January. We encourage charities and funders alike to subscribe to our new Stronger Philanthropy Community App to establish a more relational information flow. As well, we are available for consultation and an overview of opportunities. Book an appointment with us to know more.


(1) William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes (Cambridge MA: Da Capo Press, 2004), 4-5.