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Developing a Culture of Gratitude and Appreciation (April 17, 2015)

When Philanthropy gives back to you  Part III

As a reminder let’s start with an important premise. Philanthropy is a tool. It may have tax benefits or not. In the end, it is another avenue for an individual or family to express something that matters to them.

Strategic Family Philanthropy begins with WHY you want to give and WHAT you want impact.

Then, and only then, it focuses on Who you give to and How you complete the gift.

I often hear statements such as “My children/grandchildren don’t appreciate what they have!” or “I wish my children were more grateful for what I have given them.”

In Strangers in Paradise, Dr. James Grubman lays out an interesting reason that so many wealth creators make this complaint: It’s for the same reason I cannot appreciate the freedoms of living in the United States nearly as much as someone who emigrates here from Cuba or North Korea does.

Children (and often grandchildren) of wealth holders do not appreciate what they have for the very same reason we do not appreciate so many things in life: We are born into them.

If you were born in the United States, or in almost any modern country, you take things like electricity, plumbing and the telephone for granted. You have probably had them for your entire life. On the other hand, someone who emigrates from a small remote village in Africa to the United States will marvel at the flush toilet. He or she will look at you and me and say, “You don’t appreciate what you have!”

Family philanthropy can be a way of bringing gratitude to life. A simple gratitude exercise (name three things you are grateful for today) followed by a conversation about how you can express that gratitude through philanthropy is an eye-opening experience for families.

Gratitude expressed through Family Philanthropy can be a powerful part of a family’s identity. If you feel a lack of appreciation in your family you should explore how it can be addressed in your Family Wealth Plan.

Gratitude can only be felt when we become aware of the alternative experience or gain a new understanding of what really goes into something we take for granted. Here are three organizations that offer unique experiences to increase a sense of gratitude. By learning about and actively being involved with organizations like these families can develop a broader view of the world and gratitude for it. The question to ask yourself is “In what area of life do I specifically sense a lack of appreciation in my family?” The key is specificity and not a general “They don’t appreciate what they have.” With specificity you can go on to create appreciation experiences.

The Growe Foundation ( If you ask children “Where does food come from?” the answer too often is “The food store.” This disconnect is part of the health and dietary problem plaguing our society. Growe approaches the problem thought education:

Education comes in many forms throughout a child’s life, and Growe believes that experiential learning is crucial to shaping child’s understanding, values and behavior. By providing children with engaging educational experiences that connect them to food, how it’s grown and why fruits and vegetables are essential to their diet, we aim to address the childhood health issues and the environmental problems facing society.

  • Education- Provide schools with experiential learning programs that enrich education and teach students about food and the environment.
  • Eating- Help children understand the importance of fruits and vegetables and the connection between what they eat and the health of their body.
  • Environment- help children understand how the health of their bodies is linked to the health of the planet.

Growe’s vision is simple yet powerful: The vision of the Growe Foundation is to unite people around a shared goal of creating healthier children, schools, communities and planet.

Attention Homes ( A nice, safe home with running water, flush toilets, heat, and food is probably high on the list of the unappreciated and expected parts of our lives. And, too often, those who don’t have one are invisible to us. Worse, the problem of homeless children in many communities is denied. In Boulder Colorado Attention Homes offers hope to Runaway and Homeless youths lost in what is a very affluent community. From their website:

Attention Homes is located in Boulder, Colo. and was founded in 1966 by Judge Horace Holmes, probation officer, John Hargadine, a First United Methodist Church bible study, and concerned community members who saw the need to provide “attention, not detention” to troubled youth.  They believed there needed to be an alternative to institutionalization or detention so that children would have a safety net and a chance to thrive rather than being placed in a locked facility.  In its 45-year history Attention Homes has served over 6,000 children in crisis by ensuring safety and meeting basic needs, providing counseling and teaching life skills, and helping at-risk youth choose a positive future.

Attention Homes was one of the first nonprofits of its kind in the United States.  The innovation of the program drew groups from more than 25 localities to travel to Boulder to visit the homes.  In fact, more than 200 homes were started across the U.S. and internationally based on the Attention Homes model.

Seeing that the reality of homeless at-risk youths is more than just a news story and exists in their own communities is an experience that can help a family build and strengthen their culture of gratitude.

The Latin American Education Foundation ( Experts across the social and political spectrum agree that broad access to education is critical for society to not only move ahead but to keep up with the world. In his book Breakout Newt Gingrich highlights pioneers in opening up education to make the world a different and better place. Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Unfortunately, access to good education (“How many colleges did you get accepted to?” instead of “Are you able to go to any college?”) can also be taken for granted and not appreciated for its true value.

The Latin American Education Foundation, LAEF for short, focuses on increasing access to higher education for Hispanic students. I have attended several of their events and listening to the stories of their scholars gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for what my mother did to make sure I got a good education. From their website:

Hispanics are the fastest growing, underrepresented community in the nation.  The workforce requires more education than ever.  As a community, it is our responsibility to increase the number of Hispanics who complete degrees in higher education. Today, access to higher education is critically important in order “to advance the economic and social status of the Hispanic community,” as demonstrated by the following statistics:

    • 72% of Hispanic students in Denver drop out of school, the worst rate in the country;
    • 40% increase in tuition rates at Colorado’s universities and colleges in the past five years;
    • $5.2 billion would be added to the Colorado economy if underrepresented children graduated at the same rate as the status quo by 2020;
    • 6,000+ Scholarships have been awarded to Colorado youth through LAEF, total is more than $6 million.

These figures show an alarming trend in the lack of advanced education for Hispanic students. A significant barrier to this is the increasing cost of higher education. LAEF addresses these issues by providing programs which increase access to higher educational opportunities for Hispanic students.

Your Family Wealth Plan can have Gratitude and Appreciation as a major pillar supported by your tax, legal, investment, and insurance planning. Let me know if you would like to discuss any of these concepts further.



Developing a Culture of Gratitude and Appreciation (April 17, 2015)