Mike Gallagher, CMF Editorial Correspondent
They came from the four corners of Michigan and beyond to tell their stories, learn from experts and engage in rich discussions of the value, trends and impact of philanthropy. The occasion was the Council of Michigan Foundation’s (CMF) 12th Biennial Family Foundations Retreat – “Giving With Purpose: Making It A Family Affair” - held recently at the Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville.
Calling the retreat “a memorable and enjoyable gathering of great people,” Tom Porter, president of the Porter Family Foundation and vice chair of CMF’s Family Foundations, said, “It’s just a wonderful opportunity to come together with our peers, share ideas and experiences and become re-energized to do the work of philanthropy.”
Two concurrent, informative and fun-filled itineraries kept both adults and youths busy during the three-day event.
National experts – including Lisa Parker, president of the Lawrence Welk Family Foundation and the late-iconic bandleader and musical showman’s granddaughter – shared their knowledge and experiences on such topics as the challenges of multi-generational family foundations, age and geographic barriers and disparate interests.
“While multi-generational issues can sometimes be challenging to deal with within a family foundation, the engagement of all age segments can bring forth new ideas for giving, debate of topics such as donor intent and succession and adoption of better communication strategies that can bring the families closer together,” said Parker.
Another keynote speaker at the retreat was Sondra Shaw-Hardy, co-founder of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, now a program at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. She provided an in-depth, historic review of women’s role in philanthropy.
The young people attending the retreat with their families enjoyed their own sessions on youth grantmaking, including lessons on philosophies of philanthropy, how to make good grants and environmental stewardship. The sessions were led by noted youth program leaders Katelyn Videto, development coordinator for the Altarum Institute in Ann Arbor, and Joseph Sutkowi, development associate for foundation relations at the University of Michigan.
“The young people really got into the discussions and sharing their feelings about the need to help others,” said Videto. “They are engaged, questioning and are excited about playing an ever-growing role in their family’s giving as they grow older.”
Ana Alicia Holley, 14, attending with the E-B Foundation from Warren, Michigan, summed up the weekend retreat’s youth activities, saying, “It was a great time. We all learned about the importance of grantmaking and how to make a good grant.”
Those lessons were put into play for the group of young grantmakers as they were given the opportunity to research, conduct site visits, review applications and then choose various, northern Michigan nonprofits to receive a portion of $1,000 in grants selected by them. In a surprise announcement, CMF President/CEO Rob Collier told the young grantmakers that donations from various attending foundation members allowed each of the awarded grants to be doubled.
Deborah Palms, CMF’s director of Family Philanthropy, along with John and Nancy Colina of the Colina Foundation, co-chairs of CMF’s Family Philanthropy Program Committee and other members of the Program Committee, all helped create an activity filled retreat for attendees to enjoy.
Families joined in a kayaking and canoeing trip down the pristine Betsie River led by environmentalists from Conservation Resource Alliance. A smaller group chose a scenic hike through Crystal Mountain Resort’s unique 30-acre Michigan Legacy Art Park, filled with various nature-themed artwork and Stockade Labyrinth, a small-scale fort replicating those built during Michigan’s colonial period.
An alpine slide, a scenic ski-lift ride, a campfire with requisite “S’mores,” and a guitar-playing environmentalist added to the enjoyable entertainment of the weekend festivities.
“We wanted to provide a little something for everyone,” said Palms.
The retreat was an unqualified success, according to its participants:
“I really enjoy the opportunity to talk with other family foundation members and learn what they are doing,” said Elizabeth Welch Lykins of the James C. and Jane N. Welch Foundation of Grand Rapids. “Just being with people who share our beliefs and dedication to philanthropy is uplifting. CMF does a wonderful job bringing us all together.”
Click Here to view our slideshow from the retreat.
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