“Someone once said we all seek community and what we find is organization. All organizations don’t have to be regimented or impersonal, but they can be. In family philanthropy, you can have a genuine sense of community that comes from the family’s relationships and values. That is something most of us hunger for and we hunger for it in places other than our homes.”
– Jack Murrah
It may be this time of year more than any other when we hunger for – and appreciate – the sense of community we experience within our family and, very often, in our philanthropy. In his inspiring interview for our project on the value of family philanthropy in our democracy, former Lyndhurst Foundation president and founding National Center board member Jack Murrah reflected on the values and traditions that give a sense of purpose to our giving (see main story in this issue). He noted that these qualities – ones we often associate with individual or family character – can find expression within our grantmaking organizations.
Our sense of purpose and community has been sorely tested this past year as we have weighed financial losses against profound need and our long-term commitments against the immediacy of opportunity. All signs point to that test following us into the New Year.
The National Center has certainly been taking the test. While we have experienced some understandable funder reluctance to consider larger, multi-year grants, small grants from our wonderful Friends of the Family have gone up. We have cut expenses where needed and negotiated for new office space that halved our rent – and, in the process, found terrific space so much better than we ever could have dreamed.
The critical need and the absolute joy of our work in support of family philanthropy have been well reinforced this year. We have been privileged to spend many hours with families wrestling with decisions about payout and perpetuity, commitment to mission and pressing community needs. We have visited with those needing a little guidance, a little encouragement, and the opportunity to think about these things with someone sensitive to their circumstances.
Both our operational challenges and program work carry the lessons and benefits of our economic test: in struggling to get through the hard times, never stop looking for the new opportunity or the new solution. And, never forget why you do this work in the first place. Your commitment to the causes and communities you serve is just one of the many contributions you make to our democracy and our planet. The opportunity to do this work with those you love is one of the many joys.
May the season bring you, your family, and your philanthropic family – staff, advisors, and grantee partners – the sense of community Jack Murrah described. May the New Year – sure to provide many more tests – also bring you the creativity and renewed commitment needed not just to survive, not only to thrive, but to soar.