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Nine Lessons Learned from One Family’s Philanthropy

By Abby Rolland

Several weeks ago, we published a blog post about the Ideker family and their Ideker Family Foundation (IFF); IFF is a client of harp-weaver’s. During the conversation, Doug and Terrie Ideker offered a look into their Foundation, their values, and the impact IFF has had and continues to make.

They also offered several insights for others wishing to give back and make a difference, which we wanted to dive deeper into here. Below are nine lessons that the Idekers shared that are backed by research and thought leadership, and can help inform your philanthropy.

1) Fund Organizations Whose Missions Align with Yours

The Idekers mentioned that it’s important to fund organizations whose missions align with yours (whether you individually give, or your philanthropy comes from your foundation/donor-advised fund).

“If an organization doesn’t fit with our mission, then it’s not a fit for our foundation,” Doug explained.

According to Dr. Teri Behrens at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, “the biggest challenges for nonprofits arise when the espoused mission and values of a foundation are not reflected in the demands their systems place on nonprofits/grantees or in how their foundation staff actually behave.”

A foundation that remains focused on its mission and goals, like IFF, provides nonprofits a clearer idea of which foundations are/would be a good fit.

2) Look for organizations who demonstrate a willingness to work with others

When searching for new organizations to fund, the Idekers explained that they like to see when organizations work together.

From Doug: “We look for organizations who share information and successes with others, instead of protecting their own turf. It can be tough to collaborate with others, especially when you’re a smaller organization, but partnering together helps organizations reach a common goal.”

RBW Strategy lays out six reasons why nonprofit collaboration benefits the nonprofits involved, as well as their clients/customers/audiences. Collaboration maximizes cost savings, results in better programs, improves efficiency, enhances services, promotes inclusivity, and increases credibility.

3) Working with smaller organizations can lead to outsized impact

“Since we’re not a massive foundation, we’ve realized that we can have more of an impact with smaller, almost start-up like type organizations. Many of the executive directors whom we work with are entrepreneurial – they have a passion for the work, but along the way, discovered that nobody was doing the work in the same way that they could. So, they started their own organization,” Doug explained.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, 66.6% of public charities (211,782 organizations; public charities are the largest category of nonprofit) had less than $500,000 in expenses and composed less than 2% of public charity expenditures. These numbers illustrate that even though many public charities are small, these organizations can have outsized impact.

4) In addition to giving of your treasure, give of your time and talent

Not only can someone give of their money (treasure), but they can also give of their time and talent. As Doug explained, each IFF board member has different backgrounds and experiences, and they use those to help partner organizations.

“We sit on boards, serve on advisory committees, act as mentors. Over time, we’ve seen that we can multiple what we’re able to do by committing not only our treasure, but our time and talent as well,” Doug explained.

Terrie added that as a result, they’ve formed special relationships with organizations that they’ve worked with.

“They’ve done so much more for us, more than we could ever do for them,” she said.

A blog post from Charity Navigator discusses why it’s important to give of your time, talent, and treasure. “Your time is as valuable as money (and) your talents are needed by nonprofits to expand what they can offer programmatically and to improve internal efficiencies.”

5) Involve your network

In addition to giving of their time, talent, and treasure, the Idekers also intentionally share information, news, and impact about nonprofit partners with others.

“It’s so fulfilling to bring others to the work that you care about,” Terrie explained.

Writer Simon Sinek says, “don’t give to get. Give to inspire others to give.” Being public about one’s giving and the nonprofits that one works with helps inspire others to give and get involved.

6) Have an “outsider” on the family foundation’s board

From the moment IFF was incorporated, they included a non-family member on their board and in their decision-making processes.

“Our sons were young,” Terrie said, “and we were all were still learning a great deal.”

“We also knew that we didn’t want to get tunnel vision,” Doug added. “We wanted someone to help us stay focused on our mission, and someone who has a different perspective.

“(Our friend and IFF board member) John has been an integral part of what we do. He’s deeply committed to the values and mission of IFF.”

Exponent Philanthropy outlines the benefits of having non-family members involved in family philanthropy, including supplementing skills, expertise, and networks, augmenting diversity, and enhancing the foundation’s public standing. While the post details some downsides or conflicts that can happen with having a non-family member, the Idekers serve as an example of a family who has successfully integrated a non-family member who shares their goals and mission and contributes in helpful ways.

7) Involve family members/create a legacy

Both Ideker sons are included on IFF’s board and have been since the Foundation was created.

“We wanted our sons to be brought into what we were doing, to play an active role, and to help determine the direction of the Foundation and what we wanted to accomplish,” Doug explained.

On Medium, author Amit Raizada shares the impact of family foundations. “(You can) magnify your philanthropic impact, establish your personal legacy, and help bring your family together,” he explains. “(In addition), the process of working together as a family can instill philanthropic values that last a lifetime and deepen social consciousness.”

8) Inculcate philanthropic values with younger generations

Both Idekers agreed that one of their focuses within IFF has been to create a legacy of giving, not only for themselves and their sons, but for their grandchildren and future generations as well.

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching our daughters-in-law become involved and bring their values to the table,” Doug said.

Terrie added: “We want to continue passing along these values to our grandchildren. We plan on teaching them about giving and how they can give back starting at an early age.”

The Long Beach Community Foundation lays out how families can talk about giving with younger generations. Sharing the impacts of giving back and how it can make a difference in the world with younger generations can influence them to act philanthropically.

9) Find a way to get involved/give back

Finally, the Idekers encourage others to find ways to simply get involved and give back.

From Terrie: “Take the time to discover joyful giving and give from your heart.”

From Doug: “Find your passion, give to it, and give of yourself to help. It’s amazing to participate, regardless of the level that you give at. It will change your life and change the outlook of everything you do.”

There are countless benefits to giving back. From health reasons to social emotional learning skills to expressing values, philanthropy not only helps those you serve, but helps you as well. Tifany Boyles shares how through philanthropy, people become better humans. The community benefits, society benefits, and as the Idekers shared, you benefit as well.

The author is thankful to the Idekers for not only sharing their story, but for demonstrating important lessons about giving and philanthropy.


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