Trading Power with the Next Generations


Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Fall Conference for Community Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Diana Sieger, President of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.  Follow her foundation on Twitter: @GRCommFound.

By Diana Sieger

Subtitle: I can feel your hot breath on the back of my neck!

This morning I participated in a session entitled “Trading Power” dealing with the “importance of multigenerational involvement in philanthropy.”  In other words, how to involve all ages in the decision-making and learning at foundations while we gain insight on the generations coming up!

Two Council on Foundations staff leaders, Dori Kreiger, Managing Director, Family Philanthropy Services and Andrew Ho, Manager, Global Philanthropy designed and organized this session .  It was purposely designed to encourage audience participation and the participants were arranged in a fishbowl fashion surrounded by a circle of attendees.  A key feature of the session involved role playing situations.  It worked well!  Jillian Vukusich, Director of Community Investment at the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, Audrey Jacobs, Director of the Center for Family Philanthropy at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and I acted out the scenarios.

In the first scenario, Jillian played the “seasoned” Executive Director who was meeting with next gen “program officer” played by Andy Ho.  They acted out a negative and much more positive version of the scenario as Andy was looking for more leadership opportunities.  In the second scenario, I played the seasoned Executive Director speaking with Audrey who was the seasoned Board Chair as I was trying to set the stage for bringing some younger leaders on the community foundation board.  The Good and the Bad were played out here as well.  Oh my!  What an experience!  The session attendees did talk . . . a lot!  Great conversation!


  • This is multigenerational not just about the “next gen”
  • Leadership needs to be shared and opportunities need to be broadened
  • Communication is changing (has changed!) rapidly – including social media
  • Work habits different and the next gen may see their careers as a “train making several stops”
  • Philanthropy needs to offer ways to show what great leadership can look like

I strongly urge everyone to go to to find a rich resource of articles, books as well as the report Trading Power. The report includes interviews with 18 philanthropic leaders and their thoughts on the next generation and the exchange that can ensue between the generations and indeed, sharing power.

As a boomer who has been the CEO of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for 23 years, I know that the key thing is to create real situations to spread the power, authority and responsibility to staff as well as new opportunities to relate to upcoming generations of donors and all levels of community leaders.  We have involved youth grantmakers on our board for the past 8 years – one a year with the next one in the wings.  They have all the rights and responsibilities of any of our trustees PLUS they do participate in my performance review!  We are actively looking for the best people who can help us reach our lofty goals and address our future strategies.  It takes people of all ages, backgrounds and experience.  The key thing is that we are looking for people who have great passion for our communities!

To my fellow boomers, Embrace the new leadership and don’t be fearful to share power and leadership.  And yes, to our next gen leaders, I DO feel your hot breath on the back of my neck.  I’ll turn around to guide and involve you don’t worry.  I am not retiring for quite a few years though so learn all you can from me and I’ll learn from you as well.

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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