September 2023

Dear Reader,

We often hear philanthropists wrestle with strategy around their philanthropic purpose, their pace of giving and their budget. 

  • “I would like to give my money away while I am alive so I can see the impact.”
  • “There is so much need in the world today, shouldn’t I give away my money as quickly and effectively as I can?”
  • “I view my philanthropy as long term societal risk capital. I should responsibly plan for today’s needs as well as tomorrow’s pressing issues.” 
  • “Stewarding philanthropic resources in perpetuity will honor our family’s legacy and values while keeping our family connected.”

The “Giving While Living” concept has gained more traction and notoriety in recent years with leaders like Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) and the Kendeda Fund leading the way. Philanthropists in this space are motivated by:

  • Funding urgent needs they see such as climate change, dire poverty and educational outcomes. They ask, “If not now, then when?”
  • Deploying a large amount of resources quickly to address needs 
  • A desire to see the impact of their philanthropy and govern philanthropic strategies while alive
  • A discomfort with accumulated wealth and wanting to share generously with those in need

Setting up a shared family philanthropy in perpetuity is a more traditional approach. Families seed a private foundation or donor advised fund from which they contribute a small percentage annually. Philanthropists choose a long term spending strategy to:

  • Make a “big bet” over time that cannot be easily solved in one generation
  • Preserve risk capital for future, unforeseen needs tied to a particular community or issue area
  • Sustain leadership, advocacy and collaboration on specific issues 
  • Keep a growing family connected to a place of origin, family legacy and values, and each other

What's the Right Answer: To Spend Down or Not?

There are compelling reasons for setting up a philanthropic strategy to spend down and equally compelling reasons for creating a philanthropic vehicle to remain in perpetuity. There can be middle ground in answering the timing question. Perhaps the philanthropic mission exists for one generation beyond the founder or the annual payout rate is higher than the norm of 5% which puts an obvious time horizon on sunsetting the family's collective giving.

The Bottom Line

Our advice is to ground these decisions in your mission, values and goals for your philanthropic impact. Be adaptable to changing circumstances within your family, community and issue area. For example, family philanthropies evolve as family branches grow and present new challenges and opportunities. Issue areas may command greater resources on a shorter time horizon. Either instance may accelerate decisions around a philanthropic timeline.

To learn more, visit the Bridgespan Group's website featuring Remarkable Givers. Hear in their own words how and why philanthropists are making decisions around timing.

What We're Working On

Jane and Mike Harrell, along with their children Piper, Max and Sam, launched Jane’s Fund to honor their daughter and sister, Jane, who passed away in 2019 at age 17, just five months after being diagnosed with DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) a rare, inoperable pediatric brain tumor with a zero-survival rate. Jane left her friends and family with a charge to change the world, saying, “that job belongs to each of you.” Jane’s Fund has poured more than $1 million into the Charlotte community, impacting more than 3,000 individuals, since its inception less than a year ago. GPA partnered with the Harrell family to help bring Jane’s Fund to life. Read more here.

Magnolia Blossom Foundation’s Kevin and Donna Myers brought the PCs for People model to the Charleston Tri-County area in partnership with Palmetto Goodwill. Three years ago, Kevin and Donna heard about PCs for People’s work in communities across the US. They were determined to bring this program to the Charleston area. Over the course of the next year, hundreds of refurbished computers will be distributed to those in need across the Tri-County area thanks to their generosity. GPA advisors worked with Kevin and Donna to realize their vision to put computers in the hands of people who are motivated to make their lives better through technology.

Grant Philanthropic Advisors launched a user-friendly digital tool called the Social Good Map this summer. The online dashboard allows philanthropists to see the impact of their charitable giving through dynamic charts and illustrations. The Map catalyzes strategic discussions around a family’s philanthropy. Read more here.

What We're Reading and Watching

“State of Nonprofits 2023: What Funders Need to Know”

(5 minute read)

The Center for Effective Philanthropy was curious how nonprofits view their current funding opportunities and constraints three years after the pandemic started. Their findings are compelling. Be sure to check it out!

"People are More Generous Than You Might Think"

(5 minute read)

David Brooks' opinion piece in The New York Times highlights research that finds people are more generous than we might expect. Brooks' stated: "We leap to help one another during natural disasters. We yearn not only to be admired but also to be worthy of admiration."

You don’t have to leave your neighborhood to live in a better one”

(17 minute video)

Entrepreneur Majora Carter believes in creating a path toward wealth creation, quality of life and happiness in low-status communities whether they are in the inner city, Rust Belt towns, reservations or other marginalized communities. Our team had the pleasure of listening to Majora speak at a lunch last week hosted by Metanoia.

We hope we've given you points of inspiration and curiosity!


Kaky + The GPA Team
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