Philanthropic Planning

About one-quarter of our work relates to family philanthropy, most often as part of a complex family enterprise or family office. Our research has shown that effective philanthropy can strengthen family relationships as it accomplishes its goals of serving public and community interests. For philanthropy to be a positive experience, however, it must be approached with the same discipline and thoughtfulness that propels a business. Our research, consulting experience, and publications on philanthropy are our platform of understanding of how families structure and operate their foundations. We use that understanding in our teaching and research about family philanthropy and in our consulting with individual family foundations.


Foundations and Families in Transition

Families often create a private foundation to organize their common philanthropic interests. Much of our work with family foundations begins with a relationship with the donor generation, helping them articulate and implement their philanthropic goals in the family context. However, like all family-based organizations, family foundations undergo predictable, important and demanding transitions, as the family and its enterprise become more complex over time. The change process often begins with the withdrawal or death of the founding donor who typically controlled the foundation and the board of directors. Family members—the founder’s spouse, offspring, grandchildren, extended family members and in-laws—are faced with the challenge of defining the founder’s legacy anew, while also developing their own vision for the future and shaping a more inclusive governance structure. LGA specializes in working with families as they navigate these transitions that challenge the foundation’s continuity:

  • Engaging younger generations in foundation governance and leadership;
  • Substantial increases or decreases in foundation assets;
  • The dispersal of family members into other cities and states;
  • The retirement of senior trustees or staff, or
  • The transition from direct family grantmaking to governance of a professionally-operated foundation.

We help families reexamine and evolve their mission and values, governing principles and practices, organizational structure, and grant programming. Our most typical services in support of family philanthropy include:

  • Organizing a “design process” for family philanthropy, including private foundations, funds, and giving programs
  • Facilitating philanthropy retreats as family members clarify individual and group values and priorities
  • Guiding families through choosing and implementing a participative governance structure (e.g. boards, trustees, staffing, committees, next generation boards)
  • Helping families manage the interdependence among the parts of the family enterprise: the foundation, operating businesses, family offices, and other collaborative efforts
  • Designing a program to educate, involve, and transition to the next generations
  • Advising on the most productive relationships between family members and professional staff


Generations of Giving

Senior Partner Kelin Gersick led the research and writing of this landmark study of family foundations commissioned by the National Center for Family Philanthropy.