Strengthening the Impact of Donor and Family Giving

Susan Wampler

Building upon seven years of supporting families in strengthening the impact of their giving, The USC Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy (The Center) held its inaugural Family Philanthropy Forum — Donors & Their Families: Enduring Issues, Emerging Themes, Endless Possibilities — on March 9 in Beverly Hills.

Hosted in partnership with the J.P. Morgan Philanthropy Centre, the forum gave donors and their family members the opportunity to hear from leaders at the forefront of family-centered philanthropy. “There is a tremendous opportunity for individuals and their families to use their philanthropy to address significant challenges in the communities they care about,” says James M. Ferris, director of The Center. “Our goal with this forum is to provide donors and their families the opportunity to discuss some of the most salient issues in philanthropy, help connect them with others at all stages of their philanthropic journey, and curate resources that can be helpful in identifying and pursuing their philanthropic values for meaningful and impactful giving.”

The opening plenary featured a conversation between Raikes Foundation founders Jeff and Tricia Raikes and Bob Graziano of J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank. Jeff and Tricia discussed the influences behind their foundation’s focus on youth, homelessness, and expanding learning opportunities, as well as their commitment to building the field of family philanthropy.

The couple met as young Microsoft employees in 1981, and the company’s phenomenal success enabled Jeff and Tricia to establish the Raikes Foundation in 2002. A deeply personal experience their eldest child endured with bullying at school led them to their foundation’s first area of focus: youth education and development.

After a long tenure at Microsoft, Jeff was asked to serve as CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. His devotion to helping others, however, was set at the age of 12. “There was a blizzard, and a couple got stuck in a snowdrift near our farm,” he recalled. “My dad was quick to offer them help – and then quick to volunteer me. It was 10 below zero. We got them out of the snowdrift, and my dad said, ‘I don’t want to take any money from you, I just want to know that if my kids are ever in trouble in the future, somebody will step up and help them.’” Tricia also described the parental influence on her own future philanthropy. “My mother was a chronic volunteer,” she recalled. “She was really my first role model, teaching me that people always need to be at the center of the work.”

When asked about lessons they have learned to date, Tricia said: “Philanthropy is really personal. Jump in and be curious. When you are passionate about an issue, it drives excellence.” Jeff emphasized three principles that guide their giving: a clear and sustained focus, research-based strategies, and continuous collaboration and learning.

To that list, Tricia added another important value. “Make sure that the voices of the people you intend to serve are very engaged in the work.”
The couple’s consideration of their own children is one of the reasons they plan to sunset their foundation by 2038. “We just think it’s really important that they find their own path in life,” Jeff said. “At some point, they may come to philanthropy, but we do not want to impose that on them.” In addition, he noted, by the third generation or beyond, a perpetual foundation tends to veer away from the initial intent — or the focus becomes more about protecting the foundation’s reputation, causing trustees to take less risks in funding decisions.

Whether donors choose to establish a perpetual foundation or one with an end date, Jeff encouraged attendees to think carefully about what they want to accomplish, and when. “It should be a very conscious decision,” he said. “But I do hope that more and more philanthropists will choose to do ‘giving in time,’” which enables larger and more impactful giving now.

Following the opening plenary, attendees chose among three intimate and interactive sessions, sponsored by the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, which illustrated approaches to meaningful giving: how to get started in philanthropy, family dynamics and transitions, and structures of giving.
During lunch, Joseph Drown Foundation President and Center board member Wendy Wachtell introduced Karl Zinsmeister, vice president of publications for the Philanthropy Roundtable, who gave a compelling talk about some philanthropic successes individual donors and their families have had throughout American history.

Among the examples were Sol Price, namesake of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, whose support of Caltech Professor Leroy Hood helped usher in the genetics revolution; Tabasco heir Edward Avery McIlhenny, who launched the effort that saved the endangered snowy egrets as well as Negro spirituals; and Katharine McCormick, who funded development of the birth control pill.

The afternoon’s breakout sessions, sponsored by the California Community Foundation, focused on strategies for solving critical public problems. Topics included the importance of working together to end homelessness, achieving impact in intergenerational programs by strengthening nonprofit capacity, and advancing climate change through impact investing.

The closing plenary focused on giving across generations. Kelly Davenport Nowlin, Surdna Foundation trustee, and Steven M. Hilton, chair of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, discussed how their foundation’s honor their founder’s legacy while simultaneously creating new pathways for impact today.

Nowlin, a fifth-generation member of the Andrus family who helped create the Andrus Family Philanthropy Program, spoke of the privilege of helping steward the vision of her great-great-grandfather, John Emory Andrus, who began the Surdna Foundation a century ago. Andrus brought an entrepreneurial approach to the foundation. “He believed that philanthropy should be run with the efficiencies of business,” Nowlin added. “He was very mindful of his investments and their impact.”

While Nowlin and Hilton pay close attention to the legacy of the founder and how they might seek to solve problems in today’s ever-changing world, foundation missions evolve. “My great-great-grandfather’s intentions were around human services, education, and medical research,” Nowlin said. “A hundred years later, we are a social justice funder that looks at systemic frameworks using the lens of economic development and opportunity, sustainable environments, and arts and culture.”

Hilton discussed maintaining his foundation’s status as a family enterprise well into the future. In addition to ensuring that six of the eleven board members would always be direct descendants of Conrad N. Hilton, they created Generations in Giving for the younger family members. That program, like the Andrus Family Philanthropy Program, helps family members develop their skills as philanthropists and perpetuate the spirit of giving into the future.

Hilton’s nephew Justin spoke from the audience about the first time he presented a philanthropic opportunity to his family’s foundation — while still a freshman in high school. After joining a service trip to volunteer at an orphanage in rural China, he wrote to his uncle Steven, who at the time was president and CEO of the foundation about what he saw and the great work the orphanage was doing. The foundation ultimately donated thanks to Justin’s plea. “That really changed my life at that moment because it had made such a profound impact on that orphanage,” Justin said. “For me, it was really profound to be able to see my first interaction with the foundation wasn’t sort of a 200-page board docket, and a two-day meeting. It was really seeing the impact of the work on the ground.

The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy promotes more effective philanthropy and strengthens the nonprofit sector through research that informs philanthropic decision-making and public policy to advance community problem solving. The Center is a part of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, which works to improve the quality of life for people and their communities, here and abroad.

For more information: Please contact Gregg Millward, Senior Director of Development, The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy at gmillwar@usc.edu or 213-740-1776.