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Follow-up: Conference on Family Philanthropy

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Recently, a record number of family foundations gathered at the Annenberg Community Beach House for Southern California Grantmakers' (SCG) fourth annual Conference on Family Philanthropy. With an incredible line-up of local family foundation leaders, the conference illustrated that positive, creative approaches to philanthropy are abundant in Los Angeles. 

Resources from the conference, including presentations and video excerpts, are accessible to all SCG members. You can also check out the conference photo album and experience the event through social media on Storify.

To kick off the day, Ben Goldhirsh, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of GOOD and Chairman of The Goldhirsh Foundation, along with The Goldhirsh Foundation leadership team, outlined their innovative approach to philanthropy. Through the LA2050 initiative, The Goldhirsh Foundation is creating a shared vision of success for Los Angeles in 2050 and tracking progress toward that vision. The Foundation’s work is shaped by their focus on collaboration and the collective envisioning of tangible outcomes. Click here for the report outlining LA2050’s indicators for success.

Next, Bridgespan Partner Lisa Walsh outlined philanthropic trends and ways for foundations to increase their impact, regardless of foundation size and focus area:

  • Practice “urgent patience.” Avoid the pitfalls of giving too little over a too short time span. Explore strategies that yield results now and in the long-term.
  • Focus and look outward. Refine your giving priorities and consider how collaboration, rather than working in silos, can further your philanthropic goals.
  • Invest in talent and nonprofit infrastructure. Don’t be reluctant to invest in what is typically considered overhead; it's essential to effectively supporting grantee leaders and teams.
  • Find your truth tellers. Access to unprecedented amounts of information makes it difficult to focus on what do you really need to know. Seek truthful feedback from grantees and peers, and always ask yourself, What are my honest successes and failures?

In a panel discussion with SCG member trustees, Richard Atlas, Co-founder and Trustee of The Atlas Family Foundation, shared his perspective on how family philanthropists are uniquely positioned for high impact grantmaking. He emphasized that systems change comes from collaboration, and that true collaboration cannot succeed without a deep respect for, and trust in, your grantees and partners. Click here to learn more about the Foundation's mission and strategy.

Participants also heard insights into intergenerational philanthropy issues from Alan and Isaac Bloch, Trustees of The Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. The Blochs shared how engaging multiple generations can create challenges, but that next generation board members can bring valuable new skills and perspectives to your giving. In Isaac’s case, an interest in Mission-Related Investing provided new avenues and opportunities for their Foundation to amplify its work. The Blochs also emphasized that listening to one another has been key to forging creative solutions to meet the interests of individual family members and broader foundation goals.

Throughout the conference, participants shared how they planned to explore and expand (or simplify) their philanthropic work in the future. Some intended to explore the blurring lines between nonprofit and for-profit, best practices in learning from failure and other experiences, potential partnerships with other foundations, ways to engage the next generation, opportunities to connect with fellow SCG members and other strategies for innovative grantmaking and investing, among other priorities.

This year’s conference truly exemplified what SCG has to offer: a space where philanthropists can convene, and where new ideas can be generated and acted upon. We believe one of SCG’s central roles is to encourage a higher level of participation and promote creativity and bold ideas emerging from our region’s dynamic philanthropic community. If you have additional ideas about how SCG can best support your work, please contact me at [email protected] or by phone at (213) 680-8866.


Christine Essel
President, Southern California Grantmakers

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