The National Center for Family Philanthropy is excited to announce a unique new initiative focused on supporting family philanthropy through community foundations. Supported by leadership grants from The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Lilly Endowment, this initiative will be guided by a special task force of community foundation leaders with a particular interest in family philanthropy, and will enable NCFP to develop customized programming and resources for donor families working through and with community foundations.

“Family philanthropy is growing through community foundations and these donor families face many of the same opportunities and challenges that families giving through private foundations do,” said Virginia Esposito, president of NCFP. “Building a positive experience that engages more than one generation at a time, finding ways to channel a family’s history and values into effective giving, and learning how to build on the unique resources that families bring to giving—these are among the questions we hear from donor families that will be addressed by this important project.”

Nina Waters, president of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and a member of NCFP’s board of directors, shared her perspectives on the field's pressing need for these new resources.

I constantly remind our staff that each fund we support represents a family. Understanding how to address family philanthropy is critically important for every community foundation. We have used the terrific information that is available through the National Center for Family Philanthropy, but having these offerings more customized towards a community foundation audience will make a helpful resource an invaluable one.”

Working in conjunction with an advisory committee of community foundation leaders, NCFP will tailor and expand its resources and services for donor families who have chosen the community foundation as their primary giving vehicle. In addition, NCFP will develop training materials and programming for staff at community foundations that broadens their knowledge and skills for working with giving families. This will provide community foundations an opportunity to deepen donor families’ connections and engagement in local community issues and initiatives.

Examples of topics and trends to be investigated by the Family Philanthropy through Community Foundation initiative include:


  • How can we as community foundations encourage and facilitate multi-generational family conversations, and turn those conversations into more impactful grantmaking for our community?
  • How can we help families transform their core values into a shared philanthropic mission and legacy?
  • Can and should we launch a local donor-learning network, and how can we brand and organize ongoing programming for families and next generation donors?
  • How can we best stay connected to geographically dispersed family members and maintain connections across generations?
  • How do we help our family donors to balance donor-directed grantmaking with our community foundation’s grantmaking strategy and needs?
  • What options are available for community foundations interested in collaborating with and supporting the work of local private foundations?
  • How do community foundations advise our donor families on the value of transparency (i.e., anonymous vs. public giving, sharing your philanthropic story, etc.)?
  • What are donor memorial funds and when might they be appropriate (or inappropriate)?

NCFP was first prompted to this work when community foundations voiced the challenges of embracing family philanthropy to its maximum potential. Over the past three years, a growing number of community foundations have developed partnerships with NCFP, including the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, Calgary Foundation, Seattle Foundation and Greater Houston Community Foundation. NCFP plans to build on these and other new relationships to reach many new families giving through community foundations across the country.

The Family Philanthropy through Community Foundations initiative has also received strong interest and leadership support from national funders. The Mott Foundation and Lilly Endowment have each invested $100,000 over two years for this project; others interested in supporting this work may contact Kirkland Hamill at

Building on an existing legacy of work with community foundations

This is not the first time NCFP and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation have worked together in addressing the practice of family philanthropy in community foundations. Over a decade ago, Mott engaged NCFP to conduct a survey examining the unique role that families had played in helping to fuel the explosive growth of community foundations in the previous decade, and how community foundations were responding to new expectations and demands by engaged donor families. The report, and resulting management tool from this study, provide a useful framework for community foundations to guide their outreach and engagement of giving families.

How to take part in the Family Philanthropy through Community Foundation initiative

All current community foundation partner subscribers to NCFP's Family Philanthropy online service will soon be receiving an invitation to be a part of this initiative. Community foundations that are not current subscribers are invited to become a partner subscriber, or may contact Vice President for Program Jason Born at for additional information.