Editor’s note: Lauren Hasey Maher served as program manager for the National Center for Family Philanthropy from February 2012 through August 2014. Her last day at NCFP was Friday, August 15.

In my nearly three years here at the National Center for Family Philanthropy, I've been in the company of many of the most thoughtful, committed, and passionate people I have ever met. It has been my privilege to listen deeply and connect giving families and those that support them to the tools they need to make an impact in their communities. While the definition of community may be evolving, the commitment by families over generations to community is humbling.

There is an ever increasing commitment among families to be intentional about exposing the next generation and including them in their philanthropy. While this can often be a transition to very adult children (who may also have kids of their own) an exciting trend is the inclusion of children, youth and young adults in this process. Young board members’ perspectives can be enhanced through conversations with more experienced board members, and the questions and perspectives of new trustees often reinvigorate seasoned grantmakers.

The recent Nexus Global Youth Summit showcased a number of truly innovative ways that participants were harnessing their professional skills to make an impact on an issue they care about, while doing it in collaboration with others.

One of the Nexus participants spoke about the importance of being a good ancestor. However, instead of it being something that just happens down the road, start now by living in a way that makes it better for those who come behind you. What you do now, the decisions you make and the legacy you create can affect those around you now as well as create a ripple effect for generations to come.

Nelson Mandela did not leave an indelible mark on humanity because of one big bold act. His power lies in the sum of little decisions he made every day that stayed consistent over time. On one Nexus panel, “Keeping the Mandela Legacy Alive,” Mpule Kwelagobe, former Miss Universe Botswana, shared the story of an unlikely ally that changed the course of her life and enabled her to go beyond her pretty face to make a tremendous impact on her community. At 21 years old she nervously awaited Mandela’s arrival to her launch of a new nonprofit focused on food security for her country. Observing protocol she was trying to peek over the heads of all the men on the tarmac as Mandela stepped off the plane. Mandela immediately began shouting her name and then grabbed her hand and led her through a sea of dignitaries. Everyone attested that Mandela believed in young people but Mpule said what he did in that moment gave her a power she had never known. 

Nelson Mandela reminds us that legacy begins in the small decisions you make every day. Believing in people, being kind, ensuring your actions match your words, and choosing integrity each and every time are just a few of the lessons he left behind. Are these qualities present at your board table? Are you modeling the behavior you want the generations behind you to follow whether they are related to you or not?

Acknowledged or not, our families play a tremendous role in shaping our values and contributing to a philanthropic identity. My grandparents, celebrating their 72nd anniversary this month, perch atop a giving family because they have steadfastly modeled and encouraged that behavior for decades. Expose your children early and often to philanthropy to help them incorporate these values into their identity. There are formal programs for children as young as eight, through organizations such as Youth Philanthropy Connect, that provide a peer group, mentors, and tools to enable them to reach their full potential. Here are a few tips from NCFP for integrating the next generation into your philanthropy

We are fortunate that generations of family philanthropy have taught us the importance of creating a space for the next generation to explore and create their giving identities now. The field has responded with a variety of networks and program to empower, educate, and equip the next generation with the tools they need to make a difference in their communities both now and in the future. Here are just a few of networks where the next generation can connect nationally:

Additionally there are many community foundations and regional associations of grantmakers with a variety of learning and peer networking opportunities for the next generation living or giving in that region.

At the Nexus Global Summit, Nelson Mandela’s grandson said, “Nelson Mandela knew what his purpose was and that made him an extraordinary individual with an extraordinary love for humanity.”

Family philanthropy is a powerful platform for helping the next generation discover their purpose, cultivate their voice, and enable them, their peers, their families and their communities to live up to their full potential.

I have been fortunate to find my purpose, which is helping connect people, families, and organizations to the tools and information they need to maximize the impact on their communities and causes they care about. My work at NCFP has ingrained in me the power a little bit of information, a lesson learned, the right connection, or an open ear at just the right moment can have to transform the effectiveness of a philanthropic family. Please feel free to reach out to me at lhasey@gmail.com if I may ever be of service. I wish you all continued success in your philanthropic endeavors. 

All the best,