““This program was an excellent entree into the world of philanthropy, and provided us with tools and experience to work together as a team of siblings and cousins. Not only was it a lot of fun, we developed a deeper sense of purpose, cohesion, and hunger to learn more. Sarah did an outstanding job organizing, focusing, educating, and inspiring us. We couldn’t have done it without her.”
~Kyle, Co-chair, Grousemont Foundation G5 Committee
The Grousemont Foundation:
Engaging the Next Generation
How Sarah Hopper of Sound Philanthropy Helped Young Grantmakers Get Started with Giving
The Grousemont Foundation was established 20 years ago by the Wrights, a family with a long history of local civic engagement and philanthropy. In 2011, the Foundation Board recognized that the time was right to engage the youngest generation of the family in giving. All fifth-generation (G5) family members (ages 14–32) were invited to participate in giving away $10,000 as a group. The Foundation Board wanted the group to experience every phase of grantmaking, work as a team, and have the opportunity to bond as siblings and cousins.
As a seasoned philanthropic advisor, I recognize and support the positive role philanthropy can play in the lives of multi-generational families. Not only is it a key component in creating what Dennis Jaffe calls “the hundred year family,” it brings family members together to serve a greater purpose, teaches teamwork and trust, and can be a springboard into family governance and family business.
To educate and inspire the Grousemont Foundation’s youngest members, I changed the parameters of the original project in two significant ways. First, to emphasize the importance of governance and procedure in effective grantmaking, I asked the Board to give complete autonomy to the G5 members, and I instructed the G5 group to elect co-chairs. Second, to emphasize the importance of personal experience and build individual confidence, I convinced the Grousemont Board to give each group member an age-appropriate sum of money to gift. In this “individual phase,” each young person made a donation to a charity that reflected their personal values, then reported back to the group, where they explained what they had learned about grantmaking, what they had learned about themselves, and what they found challenging about the process. This experience of individual giving served as a launching point for the group giving that followed.
To grant the $10,000, I helped the group identify a focus area for giving. I organized and facilitated a panel of subject-matter experts. Based on what they learned from these experts, the group identified criteria for a Request for Proposals (RFP). I drafted the RFP, then distributed it through my personal network and served as point person for questions and receipt of proposals. Using a Criteria Checklist I created, the G5 members—with my guidance and coordination—reviewed and evaluated proposals, selected finalists, conducted site visits, and worked together to reach consensus.
The project’s primary accomplishment was the completion of the first G5 grant from the Grousemont Foundation. The complete grantmaking process provided a series of valuable opportunities and experiences for this group of young people, including:
Increased understanding of the grantmaking process.
Strengthened bonds between siblings and cousins.
Awareness of local community needs and nonprofits.
Increased confidence and development of leadership and communication skills.
In light of the project’s success, the Grousemont Foundation has continued the program; it’s currently in its ninth year! Over the years, the Board gradually raised the group gift amount from $10,000 to $100,000. The Board also continued my suggested practice of providing individual, age-appropriate donations to each G5 member: $100 each for children 14 and younger; $250 for high school-aged children; $500 for those college-aged; and $1,000 for those 25 years or older.
Two factors play key roles in the success of this program: the foundation’s commitment to G5’s autonomy—the Board does not oversee the process or decision-making—and my continued involvement and support each year. Participation on the G5 Committee has become a pre-requisite for full Board membership; to date, four G5 members have been appointed to the Foundation Board.
Knowing when and how to engage the younger generation can be a difficult for family foundations. The Grousemont Foundation’s strategy—furnishing its G5 members with a philanthropic advisor and a real sum of money to grant—was an excellent way to educate and prepare the group for future leadership in both the family foundation and in the family business.