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January 14, 2015

Engaging the Whole Family in Philanthropy

Engaging the Whole Family in Philanthropy


Meaningful philanthropy is driven by personal experiences—but sometimes, these experiences can be shared. This family made the decision to support their alma mater based on their mutual values and priorities.


We’ve always had a place for our alma mater in our philanthropy—I met my wife here and our eldest daughter went here. We met some of our best friends there.


The first time development approached them to discuss making a larger contribution than their usual annual gifts, they took some time to discuss what would be meaningful to the whole family. They eventually decided to support athletics because of their shared experiences.


Our decision to support the university was mutual. We have three daughters who were active to a degree in athletics, and we felt that the women’s side of the athletics equation was every bit as exciting for us to watch as spectators. And they certainly provided a very good model for the university in terms of the academic successes of those teams. We wanted to make sure they had the facilities or the scholarships that were necessary to continue to be competitive in their sports.


Their mutual decision to support the university has also enabled this family to enjoy the results of their philanthropy together. They occasionally meet scholarship recipients that have benefited from their contributions and attend sporting events when they are able, considering themselves as a part of the team.


Our family still comes back and spends a great deal of time on campus. We felt that we were making a difference and it’s been rewarding to see that our donations have been able to help attract quality student athletes that are a credit to the university both academically and athletically. It’s obviously an intensely personal decision and it’s just one that came naturally to us.


Increasingly, family dynamics are playing a larger role in donors’ philanthropic decision making. As one wealth consultant notes, “The family is now the prospect.” To be truly effective, development professionals must understand how the family dynamic works.


In the case of this family, it was that understanding and the knowledge of everyone’s shared passions that enabled the development team to connect the family to philanthropic opportunities that were significant for the institution and meaningful to the family.



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