Helping Family Businesses
Prosper Across Generations®


Joint Philanthropy?

Adding a family foundation to a business family’s portfolio of interests is often a great idea. But consider the following situation, as expressed by two siblings.


Lara Peter
Mom and Dad are talking about setting up a Family Foundation for us to direct. In addition to our duties in running this very challenging business?
Yes, they say it’s good for us because it strengthens bonds and will give us a chance to give back as they long have. But we're together and intensely inter-dependent 60-70 hours a week. We don't have any other siblings who could carry the load.
I know. We’ve often said it’s nice that we have some different personal interests to give us some space from each other. Yeah, I agree. But what do we tell Mom and Dad? I feel guilty about our feelings.


Balancing time together and time apart is an important topic for all business owning families. One of the challenges of a Family Foundation is that to do it right requires time and consensus and focus on a few active interests. Sometimes, as with Lara and Peter, the business is consuming all of the siblings’ energies. Pressing them into new areas that require energy and decision-making can just be too much.

A Family Foundation makes a lot of sense when it provides opportunities for family members to work together and to contribute and to reinforce the family’s values when they are not closely connected every day in the business.

So, perhaps Peter and Lara and their parents can consider the parents’ focusing on the Foundation until the grandchildren are old enough to provide the time and energy. Or to consider the possibility that the spouses might lead the Foundation.

Good ideas, like a Family Foundation, have their time and place. It’s important to respect the intensity of effort to make a sibling team work. The team needs to make the “time and place” decision. The cast of values are already set and all the good ideas don’t need to be implemented immediately or by the parents. Each generation needs to determine its own destiny. More than likely, Lara and Peter eventually will set up a Foundation for their kids given the commitment and candor they already display.




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