Next week, 250 of the nation’s leading proponents and practitioners of family giving will gather at the National Forum on Family Philanthropy to celebrate, debate, and discuss the role and value of family involvement in private philanthropy. In small and intimate sessions, more than 65 speakers from across the nation will lead interactive discussions that “create a place where those committed to ethical and effective family giving can discuss the issues and circumstances affecting their leadership and service to charitable causes,” according to NCFP President Virginia Esposito.

Designed with giving families in mind, the National Forum, held at The Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA, offers family members, trustees and senior executives in the field the opportunity to connect and learn together. The event will feature fresh perspectives, new research and candid discussions about trends in family philanthropy. Among the topics will be the increasing role of women and youth and the rise in impact philanthropy.

Leaders from philanthropy, the nonprofit sector and business will address the top issues facing philanthropy, grounded in the family giving context:

  • How do you commit to a specific community, be it a geographic region or a community of concern?
  • How does the participation of women in family giving contribute to the effectiveness of the philanthropic process — for the grantmaking, partnerships and the family?
  • How do families balance risk and reward in their grantmaking as they pursue big, bold ideas?
  • How are families choosing and preparing new board members, and what are the hopes and dreams of these new young leaders?

Over the course of 48 hours, 25 sessions, and countless conversations, The National Forum will explore these and many other questions for donors, families, and those who work with them. To give you a better sense of what’s on the agenda, we’re delighted to share below descriptions of the plenary sessions at this year’s National Forum. For a full schedule of sessions and speakers, see

Perspectives on Creating Community in our Time (May 7th)

opening-plenary-collageMost philanthropic families seek to build community in some way. For some, it is a commitment to a geographic region – often the hometown; for others it may be a community of concern – an issue of special meaning for the family or a population group they are working with. Our opening plenary session takes place just off Harvard Square and we look to the Boston community for inspiration and information.

We are delighted to welcome distinguished faculty from Harvard whose scholarship and experience has focused on what it takes to further understanding, create partnerships and better comprehend what it means to make a difference in your community of choice. We will also be joined by the incoming President of the Barr Foundation, a long-time supporter of the greater Boston region that has recently expanded its vision of community to the global stage.

Come prepared not only for the stimulation of fresh perspectives and exciting research, but to share your experiences and questions on community building and transformation.


  • James Canales, Incoming President of the Barr Foundation (Moderator)
  • Howard Gardner, The John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Author, The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy and Imagination in the Digital World
  • Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and President, The Hunt Alternatives Fund

“I’ll Have What She’s Having!” – A Founder’s Conversation (May 8th)

what-shes-havingcollageOver the past two decades, philanthropic discussions have increasingly emphasized evidence-based practices and measurement techniques. But the most effective and fulfilled philanthropists are driven not by academic concern but by a deep and often personal connection to a cause or community. In this session, we will hear from three founders who found their heartfelt connection to an issue, exploring the ways these founders immersed themselves and then applied their time, treasure, and talent to solving it.


  • Lowell Weiss, Principal, Cascade Philanthropy Advisors (moderator)
  • Karen Ansara, Co-Founder, Ansara Family Fund at The Boston Foundation
  • William Campbell, Chair, Campbell Family Foundation and The End Fund
  • Mario Morino, Chairman, Morino Institute and Founding Chairman, Venture Philanthropy Partners

In a Woman’s Voice: The Role of Women in Family Philanthropy (May 8th)

womens-voices-collageThe contributions of women to the family charitable process have long been appreciated if not particularly well understood. The effects of these contributions can be profound whether the family has been giving for generations or just beginning a family philanthropy. Two remarkable women donors join us to both embrace and challenge the stereotypes of women in family philanthropy: Jennifer Buffett, President and Co-Chair, NoVo Foundation and Peggy Dulany, Founder, The Synergos Institute. How have qualities sometimes thought of as feminine such as empathy and emotional intelligence contributed to the effectiveness of the philanthropic process — for the grantmaking, partnerships and the family? How have leadership roles and responsibilities been shared?


  • Claire Costello, Managing Director, National Philanthropic Practice Executive for US Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management (moderator);
  • Jennifer Buffett, President and Co-Chair, NoVo Foundation; and
  • Peggy Dulany, Founder and Chair, The Synergos Institute

Family Philanthropy and Big, Bold Ideas (May 8th)

big-bold-plenary-collageFor some families, philanthropy presents the opportunity to take on the intractable problem and to be bold in focus and approach. The chance to dive in is irresistible – sometimes with little preparation. Other families may be equally attracted to such programs but concern for the family’s name, charitable reputation, or prudent stewardship of philanthropic assets may be cause for pause, even inaction. How do family giving programs take on ambitious grantmaking goals? What contributes to a foundation’s readiness and stamina for doing this kind of work? 
What kind of background work is needed? How about partnerships? What constitutes “acceptable risk” for some families? How have family foundations and funds managed to successfully mount big projects that others were reluctant to take on? What have been the rewards as well as the costs and what can we learn from their experiences?


  • Ira Hirschfield, President, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
  • Sylvia Yee, Vice President of Programs, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

New Directions at the National Center for Family Philanthropy (May 9th)

Trends in Family Philanthropy and the Presentation of the First Distinguished Fellow in Family Philanthropy

This session highlights exciting new work launched by NCFP to strengthen its capacity to advance ethical and effective family philanthropy. The result of two years of outreach to the field through extensive planning and discussions, NCFP has a bold new vision for helping all families embrace the possibilities of giving together and use their unique resources to improve lives and transform communities. To better understand how families are approaching their giving and the trends that are shaping the field, NCFP is launching a new, national benchmarking study, Trends in Family Philanthropy, in partnership with the Urban Institute. The study will track developments in the practice of family giving, regardless of vehicle, and will shed new light on how the largest component of the philanthropic sector is evolving over time.

NCFP is also proud to announce its first ever Distinguished Fellow in Family Philanthropy. This new program allows us to focus much needed attention on both our veteran and emerging leaders in our field.

Participants will participate in an interactive launch of initial questions from the Trends research initiative and join NCFP in recognizing the first Distinguished Fellow in Family Philanthropy. The award presentation will be followed by a conversation between NCFP President Ginny Esposito and the Distinguished Fellow


  • Kathleen Odne, Executive Director, Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, and Chair, National Center for Family Philanthropy
  • Kathy Whelpley, Vice President, National Center for Family Philanthropy
  • Elizabeth Boris, Founding Director, Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, The Urban Institute
  • Ginny Esposito, President, National Center for Family Philanthropy;
  • Distinguished Fellow in Family Philanthropy (to be announced May 8)

Family Philanthropy Across the Generations (May 9th)

across-the-generations-plenary-collageFor younger people born into a family with a prominent history of philanthropy, there is often a hope that they will continue that tradition. How do younger family members become acquainted with the values, traditions, and responsibilities of that charitable history? How are the expectations managed on both sides? How can young family members be encouraged to develop that sense of legacy and, at the same time, develop philanthropic interests, roles, and giving of their own? This conversation features young leaders from some of the most well-known family giving programs discussing growing up philanthropically in the public eye, their commitment to family giving, and the charitable pursuits they’ve forged for themselves.


  • Judy Woodruff, Co-Anchor and Managing Editor, The PBS Newshour (moderator)
  • Kimberly Myers Hewlett, Treasurer, Myers Family Foundation and Board Member, Flora Family Foundation
  • Katherine Lorenz, President and Treasurer, Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation