This issue of Family Giving News gives the National Center for Family Philanthropy a chance to highlight both the common and the uncommon practices of philanthropic families.

A week ago, we released the full findings of our study, Current Practices of Family Foundations. This is the first time an organization has successfully conducted a random survey of family foundations’ practice as well as aspirations for future performance. We had to randomly contact family foundations – many of whom had no affiliation with an association or network of donors of any kind. And you, characteristically, were generous both with your time and your candor in discussing your policies and practices. We now have a better idea of what you have in common, how you’d like to do better, and what you need from us to support you.

As we launch an educational and communications effort to enhance the culture of effectiveness among family funders, the results of this study provide critical benchmarking data. The centerpiece of this effort is Pursuit of Excellence, the first comprehensive assessment process designed specifically for family foundations with your unique issues and circumstances in mind. We hope you will consider how Pursuit of Excellence can help you better understand your areas of strength as well as those areas you would like to improve.

But, as those committed to family philanthropy know well, there is nothing “common” about the practices of donor families. Family Giving News focuses attention on two wonderful stories of uncommon practice.

The Highland Street Foundation, a family foundation based in Boston, chose to celebrate its 20th anniversary by, among other efforts, making Boston-area cultural and historic attractions available free on Fridays to all citizens. Highlighting a different organization every weekend and sponsoring a “Free Friday” for each, the McGrath family was able to open Massachusetts’ treasures to those who might not have been able to afford them and to others who went on to become individual supporters.

Finally, National Center senior fellow, Alice Buhl, invites all philanthropic families to cherish the individual interests – giving and volunteering – of all family members as a way to enrich charitable discussions and appreciate the diversity of every family’s commitment to community.

I hope you will take the time to share your own uncommon story with us. We are always looking for the next inspiring story or exemplary practice. And to adapt the Iwo Jima memorial, we often find that “Uncommon Commitment is a Common Virtue.”

Happy Autumn!

Ginny Esposito
President, National Center for Family Philanthropy