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Family Philanthropy

Updated: Jun 3

bigger hands holding smaller hands that are holding a heart

By harp-weaver staff

Family philanthropy can be complicated and ever-changing. Institutional philanthropy includes layers of operation and program management that becomes increasingly complex the larger the institution (typically a private foundation) is. Add in family dynamics and history, and a family’s philanthropy can become ever more multi-faceted.

Even with those complexities, families often don’t receive the proper support necessary to run their formal philanthropy. Too many times in the past, harp-weaver staff have seen families receive wealth advice and then create foundations and other charitable giving vehicles but not have the proper tools or support to catalyze impact and change in the ways that they sought to do.

harp-weaver was created to address those needs through its focus on providing philanthropy advice, mission alignment, grantmaking and foundation management (including outsourced staffing), and other project-based supports. Many families utilize one or more services to support their philanthropy, which harp-weaver tailors to fit their needs. We seek to understand each families’ needs, provide value, and foster a sense of trust in order to help them achieve their goals.

We thoroughly enjoy the joy (and challenges) of multi-layered family philanthropy. Each family we work with – whether it’s a family beginning to formalize its foundation and its giving, an established foundation working with 1st and 2nd generation family members, or a longstanding foundation working with 3rd and 4th generation family members – is unique, with their own passions, values, and view of philanthropy and their family’s legacy.

Below, we provide several examples of our work with families.

We have provided outsourced staffing (managing the foundation and its daily needs), philanthropy advice, and mission alignment for several families in the Greater Philadelphia Area and one family client in Colorado since 2010. Relationships with these clients are profound and long-standing. We are proud to have designed a unique working relationship and fostered a deep personal relationship with each one of them.

Whether it is working with a multi-generational family in a suburb of Philadelphia following the sale of their business to help them establish governance, grantmaking, and financial infrastructure for a family foundation, or providing project-based philanthropy advisory services for a 2nd and 3rd generation family foundation based in the Lehigh Valley, we are pleased to be a selected advisor to guide them and to work alongside of them.

We have worked with family foundations with board members in their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations, and implemented creative ways to engage board members in multiple generations. We use our experiences working with family foundations and are continually learning best practices in the field through the National Center for Family Philanthropy, Exponent Philanthropy, BoardSource, and the Center for Effective Philanthropy. While harp-weaver can provide guidance on best practice, it is not a one size fits all approach – each board and each family are unique and require a tailored approach to designing and applying a board engagement strategy.

And not only does harp-weaver work on engaging clients with their talent and treasure, we can also guide them on organizing ways for them to give back with their time through group volunteering activities. We believe very strongly in experience-based learning and giving back to the community.

A great example of this is with one of our clients based in a suburb of Philadelphia, which is a 1st and 2nd generation family foundation. harp-weaver principal and founder Teresa Araco Rodgers has worked with the 1st generation since 2002 and has guided the family as they brought on the 2nd generation. The family is very hands on, and each year, harp-weaver has organized volunteer days. Working alongside the family, we have transformed a back garden at a home for girls aged 13-17, renovated a basement of a family shelter into a teen room, and converted an abandoned plot of land in Kensington into a community oasis (working with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society). These experiences provide hands on learning, keep the family close to those organizations and communities of concern, and reinforce the family’s commitment each year to the work of the Foundation.

Navigating relationships and differing opinions can make family philanthropy challenging at times. Whatever stage of life your family philanthropy is in, harp-weaver finds joy in providing advice and helping navigate transitions and the day-to-day management.

Witnessing the transformation and progress of our family clients is incredibly fulfilling. These relationships go beyond mere transactions; they become partnerships and collaborations that lead to mutual growth and success while accomplishing what each family seeks to do – achieve greater good.

Reach out to us at for more information about how harp-weaver can work with your family.


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