Case Study 7: Julian & Linda

Case Study 7: Julian & Linda



Julian and Linda engaged their multi- generational, geographically dispersed family in their philanthropy.

Social Impact Goals

Address climate change.

Talent for Giving

Professional executive director of family foundation ensures all four jobs — needs assessment, landscape scan, due diligence, grant/grantee management — are filled, bringing in other relevant talent as needed. Other talent includes consultants and meeting facilitators; family members; subject matter experts (e.g., scientist, head of clean energy impact investment fund, nonprofit leaders).

Julian and Linda had decided to focus their family’s philanthropy on addressing climate change. To help them, they hired Jill as their family foundation’s first executive director. They originally met Jill through a nonprofit they had funded before they became more serious about using their wealth philanthropically. Jill had struck them as smart, conscientious, and personally passionate about Julian and Linda’s social impact goal.

Jill had previously worked for a prominent research institution prior to becoming the first executive director for Julian and Linda’s family foundation. Her background allowed her to quickly organize and synthesize relevant research for her principals. Julian and Linda welcomed Jill’s contributions. Linda said, “It was like having our own private tutor!” Ultimately, they landed on increasing the production and use of clean energy as a need that they felt their philanthropy could address.

While Julian and Linda were the most involved in the family foundation, they wanted to engage their three grown children and their families. They hoped that the foundation would be yet another vehicle to pass along family values related to social responsibility. The children shared Julian and Linda’s interests in addressing climate change. However, all three children and their spouses were still working full time and had children at home. They didn’t have the time or inclination to read and discuss Jill’s summaries of promising efforts.

Every summer, the family gathered for three weeks at their lake home in Minnesota. Jill, Julian, and Linda decided to take two of those days for the whole family to learn more about climate change, clean energy, and how they could best help. Jill engaged a consultant who designed a program of guest speakers and interactive exercises. Speakers included an environmental scientist from Linda’s alma mater, the head of a clean energy impact investing fund, and the head of a national coalition of nonprofits working to ensure a clean and equitable energy future.

On the last day of this mini conference, everyone participated in a “chalk walk” where family members would write key questions or reflections on paper all over the room and everyone silently took a marker to write their answers and reactions. It was a way to get all voices heard and helped Jill, Julian, and Linda recognize which specific activities and organizations resonated most with family members. Once home in Arizona, Jill prioritized those specific activities and organizations   for due diligence and potential funding. Working closely with Julian and Linda, Jill invited proposals from a handful of organizations that the family ultimately funded.