Creative Family Grantmaking

The Story of the Durfee Foundation, Profiles in Family Philanthropy

Published in: GIA Newsletter, Vol 10, No 2 (Fall 1999)

Deanne Stone

1999. 48 pages. National Center for Family Philanthropy, 1220 19th Street NW, Suite 804, Washington D.C., 20036, 202-293-3424.

Creative Family Grantmaking: The Story of the Durfee Foundation is a notable accomplishment of The National Center for Family Philanthropy in its first year of operation. It is the first in a series of monographs, Profiles in Family Philanthropy, that will tell the stories of family donors and the concerns they face in their philanthropy. Creative Family Grantmaking may be of particular interest to GIA Newsletter readers since it profiles a foundation with a strong interest in the arts.

In her forward, National Center for Family Philanthropy president Virginia Esposito describes the power of storytelling. She states that the challenge for the Profile series is "to find ways to tell relevant and interesting stories while educating and even encouraging new and increased improvement in family philanthropy." Creative Family Grantmaking is compelling storytelling. The author Deanne Stone incorporates the voices of trustees, other family members, and staff to illustrate this family's approach to philanthropy and the foundation's evolution through three generations. Half of the book tells the history of the foundation from its inception, and the second half focuses on its current programs.

Stan and Dorothy Avery started the Avery Foundation, which would later become the Durfee Foundation. Deanne Stone writes, "Stan believed that society reaps the greatest rewards by investing in talented individuals with exceptional leadership skills." Subsequent generations have embraced Stan's philosophy, and the Durfee Foundation's programs are committed to supporting individual endeavors, whether of students or faculty, artists, musicians, or administrators. The foundation describes its grant recipients as "risk-takers, creative thinkers, and entrepreneurs in the nonprofit world."

The same description would also be appropriate for the Durfee board and staff. The foundation fosters the individual contributions of each family member who serves on the board. The second generation redefined the foundation's guidelines and created programs that grew out of their own interests. And, as Deanne Stone writes, "Now the first wave of the third generation is bringing its talents, expertise, and distinctive personalities to bear, creating new programs." Each family trustee is responsible for the program that they create. Carrie Avery, board president, brought together two of her interests — the arts and the nonprofit sector — when she developed The California Institute for the Arts/Durfee Residencies with the help of Robbie MacFarland, Durfee's former executive director, and later Claire Peeps, Durfee's current executive director.

Although the Durfee Foundation, with a budget of $1 million, has had a very small staff, the foundation's two executive directors have encouraged and enhanced the family's efforts through their own expertise and connections to the community. Claire worked with trustee Jon Newkirk to develop a program that he now directs — the Music Fellowships program. The foundation recently decided to phase out the California Institute for the Arts program and redirect the funds to a new program — the Durfee arts fellowships — that Claire will oversee.

The Durfee Foundation's story touches on many topics of interest to family foundations: involving future generations, determining board leadership, hiring an executive director, refining grantmaking goals, addressing trustee burnout, choosing an all-family board, and evaluating grantmaking. But a larger audience will also find the Durfee Foundation's story interesting because ultimately it is about innovative approaches to grantmaking.

About the National Center for Family Philanthropy
Now in its second year of operation, the National Center for Family Philanthropy is a nonprofit organization that provides resources and services to increase and strengthen family philanthropy. The National Center serves donors and their families, their staff and advisors, and other organizations interested in family philanthropy. The Center's activities include a resource center, publication of resource materials (such as Creative Family Grantmaking), educational programs, research and data gathering, and communications and outreach.

review by Karen Haberfeld