with permission from
(Washington, DC: Council of Foundations, 1997).
all of the wonderful opportunities
family foundations offer, they also present potential
difficulties. Given the particular nature of family foundations--a
blending of the family and the foundation--the boundaries
between the two can never be entirely separate. The reason
for this is clear. When family members become trustees,
they don't stop being family members. The strong emotional
ties and shared histories that provide comfort, love and
a sense of belonging also dredge up old resentments and
rivalries. Seeking the love and approval of family members
does not stop in childhood or at the board room door;
for most it is a lifelong pursuit. As a consequence, family
dynamics--ingrained family behavior patterns--are often
acted out in the board room just as they are at home.
complicating family trustees' relationships is the fact
that the lives of wealthy family members are often interconnected
through a web of business holdings. The more enterprises
family members manage and interact in, the greater the
opportunities for conflict. Consequently, when emotions
erupt, they are seldom confined to a specific incident.
A family member pouting at a board meeting may not be
reacting to anything that occurred in the family business
or at the family office. Once entangled,
rational and irrational thoughts and ideas, appropriate
and inappropriate emotions, and real and perceived experiences
are hard to pull apart.
family foundations can and do change because individuals
have the capacity and often the will to change. Foundations
once run by strong-minded donors have been transformed
by succeeding generations into democratic organizations
with clear missions and guidelines. Others in danger of
being sunk by internal squabbling have been saved when
board members confronted behavior patterns that had bedeviled
the family for generations. Of course, not all foundations
improve with age; but enough do to justify optimism about
the future of family philanthropy.
- anonymous author
© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved