The Fraternity Brothers

Howard, Len and several of their fraternity brothers began a giving pool in their senior year of college - eight years ago. The group now has 20 plus active members, including seven women. They're all in New York and coming up on age 30. They work in fashion, tech, communications, finance - the "New York edge" jobs. In the first few years meeting in people's offices, college clubs, apartments, the beach, favorite pubs or wherever they could they decided on the relatively small number of charities the pool would go to each year - in equal amounts and without question. Any 501-c-3 could be included.

This worked well enough in the early years. But almost all these young people are high earners. Last year's pool was $400,000, up from $300,000 the year before; the group realized that the pool was likely to continue growing, it might invite in more people straining the ability to manage an operation in which the charitable interests range from the arts to gay rights, civil liberties, animal welfare and a host of other causes. This is now a daunting and overly time consuming situation. Moreover the pool can't really vet every charity even though it accepts no unsolicited applications.

The pool is not a family in the blood relative sense but it is very much a family in terms of community, values, shared and contrary opinions about whom to support, three strong alpha personalities, others less forceful - all the usual family dynamics.

The tasks:

  • Facilitate a strategic planning process: what will the enterprise look like in five years? How will it achieve its goals and objectives? How will it be managed?

  • Guide development of a board so that all members have equal voice

  • Help the giving pool create a common name

  • Determine whether the loose structure can continue as is or whether creating a foundation is the right approach

  • Provide part-time management services; they may not yet need full time staff - but should be planning for that day

  • Evaluate the charities now being supported and initiate a process for bringing in new grantees.

- Composite based on real people and events.

  • Howard & Len in 2005

  • Inspiring Family Philanthropy

  • Family Foundation Management / Counsel, LLC
  • 118 Wooster Street, Suite 2CD
  • New York, NY 10012
  • 212 481 0149
  • 38 East Street
  • Stockbridge MA 01262
  • 413 298 3385

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Hank Goldstein

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