Agreeing on Guidelines for Meaningful Giving


Frustrated by a lack of coherence and meaning in their joint giving, the Ravenswood family turned to the philanthropic advisors at GMA for guidance.  The four adult siblings had succeeded their mother eight years earlier as advisors to a giving program that had supported large hospitals and mental health institutions, and had gradually turned their focus to helping marginalized populations.

Siblings Focus on Shared Priorities for Meaningful Giving

The Ravenswood (an alias used for family privacy) successor advisors’ new social justice priority brought them together around a shared passion; however, after several years the four siblings came to realize that they were funding every organization that came along with no direction to their giving portfolio. They agreed on the need for more structure and retained a GMA advisor to lead them in designing guidelines for a meaningful giving program.

After conversations with each of the siblings about their priorities and motivations, the GMA advisor facilitated a half-day planning session and guided the board towards adoption of a set of criteria that would provide a framework for decision-making and for measuring impact.

Rather than narrow the giving lens to particular fields of interest, their program would seek out grantees that demonstrate, through a set of criteria, how they operationalize their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in their governance, management, and program structures, while achieving their program goals.

The family fund is now winding down its support -over three years- for some long-term grantees that do not meet the new standards. At the same time, funding for organizations that are a good fit is ramping up and the four donor advisors are finding renewed confidence and meaning in giving.

Contact Mary Phillips, GMA’s President and director of consulting, to explore your ideas for meaningful giving. She can be reached at