“Sarah was the perfect fit (personality, professionalism, thoroughness) for our family. She did a great job of preparing for the family retreat and gracefully guiding the conversations throughout the day. I’m guessing we are now years ahead of where we would have been, had we gone it alone.”
2nd-Generation Board Member
Duim Family Foundation
The Duim Family Foundation:
Leveraging Family Talents
How Sarah Hopper of Sound Philanthropy Helped a Family Foundation Address Succession and Engagement
The Duim Family Foundation had a problem: the family at its center had no succession plan and no framework for how to develop one. They were not even sure if they should sustain the foundation. While the founding family members were still engaged in grantmaking, the younger generations felt uninspired, uninformed, and overwhelmed.
In my 20+ years as a philanthropic advisor, I’ve helped dozens of families create sustainable family foundations through strategic operational planning, effective family governance, and viable succession plans. One of my areas of expertise is working with young people to bring them into their family’s foundation in a way that is personal and inspiring, that empowers their individual and collective voice, and that persuades the older generation to recognize and leverage their talents.
To build consensus, focus, and unity in the Duim family—prerequisites for sustaining their foundation—I designed a customized, inter-active retreat for all family members, ages 6–68. At the retreat, activities were further tailored to each age group: the founders (first generation), their adult children (second generation), and grandchildren (third generation).
To engage the youngest third-generation members (ages 6-12), I had the children do two activities. In the first, they drew and decorated outlines of their bodies on butcher paper; they then drew a ladder along the side of their outline. I asked them to answer the question “How do you want to be remembered?” and instructed them to write their answer (their legacy) at the top of the ladder. Next, the kids listed “steps” and actions that they could take as they grow up to be “remembered” well. For the second activity, the kids were asked to make a presentation to their older relatives, explaining how and why they each would each give away $50 to a cause important to them. These morning exercises with the children infused the day with high energy and enthusiasm, and illustrated the importance of early engagement as a way for children to learn family values and see their place in a succession plan.
While the young children worked, I had the Board members focus on finding common ground around values. I then guided the adults through discussions about the future of their giving. I helped them develop a ten-year vision for the foundation and presented the family with a framework to define roles and responsibilities. I identified clear strategies to empower second-generation members to assume leadership roles within the next 12 months.
As an outside advisor, I am able to see patterns, opportunities, and talents that often go unnoticed within a family. For the Duims, my retreat exposed unproductive practices and helped the family recognize their individual talents and leverage them while working toward a common goal. Younger members felt empowered to take on new leadership roles; they learned to trust that they would have a voice in the process.
I helped the family establish new roles for Board members, a plan for moving forward, and customized training tools. With this essential framework in place, the Duims were able to:
Commit to the future of their Foundation.
Inspire new leadership and ideas.
Identify the next steps to achieve goals.
Create a timeline and agendas for future meetings to ensure steady progress.
With a new operational structure in place and a new, shared vision of the future, the Duims were able to move beyond anxiety about succession and ensure their philanthropic legacy. They learned to respect each generation's right to ownership in the giving process, which, in turn, reignited everyone’s passion for the power of giving. The retreat even inspired the grandparents to create a new annual tradition: giving their young grandchildren money and working with them to give it away—a small example of the positive role philanthropy can play in bringing families together.
It's been nine years since that initial retreat, and the Duim grandchildren—now teens and young adults—have become the driving force in sustaining the Duim Family Foundation. They view the foundation’s mission as part of the family’s identity as a whole. They so value it, they told their grandparents that they believe its common purpose will keep the family together in the future, as cousins begin families of their own. In a recent update, Duane Duim shared the family’s progress with me, writing, “[Y]ou are an important part of this story. You helped in building the Foundation’s foundation, that led to where we are today.”