Family Philanthropy

Inspired philanthropy strengthens relationships and deepens impact

The Challenge

At its best, philanthropy provides an opportunity for family members to come together and identify shared passions and values, work collaboratively to achieve important social change, and leave a family legacy that extends beyond an operating business or investment portfolio. Yet, the reality of family philanthropy is often more complicated. For maximum impact—in the world and for the family—it must be approached with the same thoughtfulness and rigor that drives a family enterprise.

At the same time, family philanthropy also presents some unique challenges. The limitless possibilities afforded by private philanthropy, coupled with the challenges of measuring results in the social sector, means that there can be different—and at times competing—visions for the family’s philanthropy.

Families often first confront these dilemmas with the withdrawal or death of the founding donor or when they hit common inflection points along their journey, such as generational transitions, fluctuations in assets, and leadership changes. When productively addressed, these periods of transition offer families an opportunity to reflect and coalesce around a shared vision for their philanthropy, ensuring its healthy continuity.  But when families are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to face these transitions, they can be destabilizing and surface unproductive dynamics.

Our Solution

Through our research and advisory work over the last two decades, we have learned that effective family philanthropy—generating positive family experiences and high-impact giving—requires a shared philanthropic vision. Consequently, we help families first define the purpose for their philanthropy, then create the structures, practices, and programs necessary to achieve it.

How does it work?

Our support for philanthropic families include:

  • Creating and or redesigning family philanthropies, which include private foundations, funds, and giving programs
  • Clarifying a shared purpose, and values to guide the family’s philanthropy, and the resultant programmatic, governance and operating goals
  • Helping families determine the right governance model and supporting its implementation (e.g., policy and practice development)
  • Helping families manage interdependencies among different parts of the family enterprise: the foundation, operating businesses, family offices, and other collaborative efforts
  • Designing efforts to educate, involve, and transition leadership to the next generation
  • Facilitating more productive relationships between family members and professional staff

How does your family benefit?

We will help you align your philanthropic programs, governance, and operations with the evolving realities of the family and the world at large.

Your family will emerge more engaged and connected, and your philanthropy will be more impactful and inspiring, helping you sustain a shared legacy of impact.

family philanthropy

Case Studies

family office case study

Case Study: Launching a Family Office

The second-generation CEO of a large family enterprise was approached by a strategic investor who made a generous and unsolicited offer for their legacy operating business. The CEO had previously never explored a sale — both because of her strong emotional connection to the company and its employees — two of whom were her kids — and because of its attractive cash flow and growth profile.

on campus learning

Case Study: Sustaining Engagement in a Cousins Consortium

Three third-generation Family Directors of a large enterprising family were attending a global conference focused on innovation and growth. Their 90-year old family had deep pride and gratitude for the success and leadership of previous generations. However, there were no family members currently working actively in the business, and the family’s only connection to their vast operations — which spanned eight industries and three continents — was limited to these three members of the Board.


Philanthropy in Complex, Multi-Generational Families

For many, family philanthropy presents an opportunity to create a shared experience, unifying the
family by working together toward a lasting legacy of impact. Family philanthropy can also give
participants an opportunity to explore and cultivate their personal—and sometimes separate—
philanthropic passions

Generation Of Giving

Generations Of Giving

“A thorough and powerful work, Generations of Giving: Leadership and Continuity in Family Foundations demands.


How to approach Philanthropy

About one-quarter of our work relates to family philanthropy, most often as part of a complex family enterprise or family office.

Featured advisors