US Private Giving Field Trip 2014: Day One

Jenny Wheatley from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation​ reflects on what it means to be in the goose bump business of philanthropy in the country which gave away $335 billion in 2013.

Day One for the twenty-four participants of the inaugural Philanthropy Australia Family Foundations field trip commenced with a brisk walk on a glorious New York City Autumn morning led by the unstoppable Louise Walsh and Louise Burton.  Sharna Goldseker, our tour curator reminded the group that the transfer of wealth by Family Foundations should be done with strategy and impact and not with a sense of duty or obligation.
Executive director Jennifer Hoos Rothberg shared the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust (EFCT) approach to creating long term partnerships with organisations that will incrementally bring changes that help people get along better. In a discussion that canvassed all aspects of the work of EFCT Jennifer did not mention grant-making or giving once and spoke of the need to be humble, transparent and accept failure. 
Clearly influenced by the Trustee’s background in operating a highly successful hedge fund Jennifer spoke of a 'portfolio of investments' where every communication with partners is logged in a 'CRM' and her team of seven, recently grown from three, had program officers who developed 'investment cases' and one person dedicated to measuring outputs. Jennifer spoke of tracking indicators that drive incremental outputs without seeking attribution and generously provided the formats used by EFCT to do this. 
The last part of the presentation focused on the Bully Project which was a very successful collaborative investment, brought to EFCT by another party in which the Trust had previously invested. Jennifer’s passion as she works 'wicked hard' and the mutual respect shared with her Trustees was as evident as her story was inspiring.


Lunch was spent in fruitful conversation with Jeffrey R. Solomon, Charles R Bronfman, Jilly Collier Indyk and Sasha Chanoff.  The value in the 'rolodex of a living donor' was shown by the stories of the post September 11 Gift to New York and the financial support galvanised for Sasha after his won the Charles Bronfman Prise. The tactical approach of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies to the planned spend down had elements of a corporate break up given that funds have gone to seed nine organisations that will carry on the work of the Foundation. 
The messages of raising the percentage of funds directed to strategic funding as opposed to autobiographic or relationship based funding was identical to the base from which Jennifer worked  at ECFT. Both Foundations also delivered a clear message of the importance of partnerships and collaborations with ideas not just talk.
A group photo was kindly taken by a stylish passerby outside the Ford Foundation which is considered an institution of American Philanthropy. Hillary Pennington and Louis Bickford discussed the work of the Ford Foundation in education and human rights. The Ford Foundation is a training ground for American philanthropy and four key staff members including the CEO have changed in the last two years. While some organisations have been supported for 25 years with patient capital, 75% of grants are for one year.


​Hosted by the Australian Consul, the group was able to continue valuable informal conversations with key contributors to the agenda while gazing over East New York as the lights came up on the city that never sleeps. My key take away from Day One was the impact that identifying and investing in the world’s heroes and heroines will have for those philanthropists are seeking to assist. Game on – looking forward to Day Two.

Richard Leather (Deputy Consul-General) and Louise Walsh (CEO, Philanthropy Australia) at the Australian Consulate in New York, USA.

Oct. 27, 2014

 Tags: us private giving field trip 2014

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