- Stories from Philanthropists
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- On Being an Informed Philanthropist
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‚ÄúDad had become increasingly forgetful and fussy, which was hard on everyone.¬† He was always everyone‚Äôs rock. When he set up the family foundation and hired a staff to manage it, he'd be¬†in the family office every day ‚Äėdirecting traffic.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI haven‚Äôt really been involved much in the foundation. I started my own sustainable agriculture business in Napa a few years back and grandpa thought that was one of the dumbest ideas he‚Äôd ever heard; "what were grocery stores for?", he‚Äôd ask me, while telling me that agriculture is an industry, not a farm. "Besides, what does a kid with an MBA know about running a farm?‚ÄĚ After that we didn‚Äôt talk a lot about my business, but he did talk about his interests how he wanted to change the world and make it a better place‚Ä¶his way.‚ÄĚ
As I said‚Ä¶it‚Äôs been difficult on so many levels. I don‚Äôt think any of us disagree that we need a more civil society, and that human rights desperately need to be protected, which was where a significant percent of the foundations‚Äô money went, but ‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ"I've had conversations with the kids, but maybe I wasn't listening closely enough."
‚Äú‚Ä¶of course these are important concerns, but so is world hunger and so is the environment. And if you talked to my brothers or my cousins, there will be a half a dozen other causes that they feel are important.‚ÄĚ
"I've had conversations with the kids, but maybe I wasn't listening closely enough."
‚ÄúMy concern is, now that Dad‚Äôs not running things what are we going to do with the foundation? The company has both a strategic plan and a succession plan, but the Foundation‚Äôs a different story. None of us want anyone else to take the lead, and yet none of us want to take the lead. This is a pretty big family and we all have a stake in the foundation‚Ä¶ and there‚Äôs also a significant amount of money going out every year.‚ÄĚ¬†
‚ÄúMom‚Äôs talked about having a family meeting to discuss the whole thing. Can you imagine all of us in the same room trying to be heard over everyone else?¬† I can‚Äôt wait to find out when they‚Äôre planning to do that so I can plan on being busy that day!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOne of the staff suggested we have the family meeting facilitated by someone outside the family so none of us is in charge and all of us can participate. Someone needs to manage the meeting and the people involved, and I don‚Äôt want to put the staff in that position.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI just got a questionnaire from them and they actually asked me what I care about, what‚Äôs important to me, whether I wanted to be involved with the foundation and what that looked like to me. When I talked to one of my cousins she said that no one had ever asked her those questions‚Ä¶and she‚Äôs going to video conversations with her folks, my folks and our uncle and, I think she‚Äôs going to try to talk to Grandpa to get some history from him‚Ä¶if he‚Äôs able to. I hope so. That would be a nice history to have.‚ÄĚ