William Blair and the National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP) partnered to host a meaningful conversation on today’s trends in philanthropy with family foundations from the Denver community, exploring how they can make the greatest impact in a world that is rapidly changing.  

Laura Coy, head of philanthropy strategy and ESG integration for William Blair, and Nick Tedesco, president and CEO of the NCFP, led the event in Denver on May 16. The discussion spanned from collaborative grant-making and trust-based philanthropy to next-gen philanthropists and the great wealth transfer coming.

These trends are reshaping the charitable giving landscape as families transfer their wealth to the next generation, while ensuring that the values and passions that drive their giving are passed on. Families are also exploring the power of collaboration and collective impact along with making sure giving is rooted in fairness and trust in the organizations they support.

“What was truly amazing about the discussion was the energy in the room and the sense that a shift in the pace, practice, and purpose of family philanthropy is coming,” Coy said. “Whether that’s a generational shift in wealth, whether that’s a shift in how people are giving, whether that’s where trust-based philanthropy comes into play, whether that’s a shift in next-gen taking up the reins of their family philanthropy—this is a moment of shifts and everyone is feeling it.” 

Over the next two decades, younger generations will inherit nearly $73 trillion in assets, the largest wealth transfer in U.S. history, according to financial services consultancy Cerulli Associates.

At the same time, family members increasingly want to work together over generations to use their wealth for social good with the next generation leading the way. Fidelity Charitable research shows that nearly three-quarters of millennials said they consider themselves philanthropists, compared with 35% of baby boomers. And, the millennial generation, now between the ages of 25 and 40, is bringing a fresh perspective of giving back; they are empowered to make the world a better place.

“With those changes we are also seeing donors that are increasingly interested in smarter, more strategic ways to give back,” Coy added. “They know how to optimize charitable giving. They want to take advantage of tax benefits and favorable market conditions. They also want to prioritize their values into their grant-making and investment ethos to ensure that all of their capital has impact.”

Philanthropy in Multi-Generational Families

The NCFP just released a report, Philanthropy in Complex, Multi-Generalization Families, that examined the ways families work together to best meet their philanthropy goals. According to the study, those families that were more energized and engaged by the quality of their philanthropy had shifted to a collaborative model, with giving based on the families’ shared priorities versus individualistic philanthropy in which giving is an expression of individuals’ interests.

“Family philanthropy is a complex pursuit, in part, because it requires a fundamental and active commitment to a collective effort,” Tedesco said. “With an intentional structure that has a clear purpose and explicit boundaries, families can work together effectively internally and have a social impact.”

Tedesco also shared families’ experiences in adopting a trust-based philanthropy where grant funders see their role as partners, supporting rather than controlling nonprofit leaders who are closer to the work at hand. This partnership is based on open communications, transparency, and mutual learning. Some of the practices that have evolved from that are multi-year unrestricted giving, streamlined applications and reporting, and a commitment to build relationships.

William Blair in Denver

“William Blair was honored to host the Denver event and connect with the many family foundations in the area,” said Ryan DeVore, global head of William Blair Private Wealth Management, who attended the talk.

The firm has a long tradition of serving communities and working with them to ensure they thrive, a legacy passed down by the firm’s founder nearly 90 years ago. Since William Blair opened its Denver office in 2021, the firm has supported—both financially and in employees’ volunteer time—over 50 nonprofits in Colorado.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the organizations, families, and individuals who share our commitment to philanthropy, and look forward to growing our relationships as our presence in the Denver area expands,” DeVore said.

Photo: Nick Tedesco, CEO of the National Center of Family Philanthropy, and Laura Coy, head of philanthropy strategy and ESG integration for William Blair, speaking at the Denver philanthropy event.