Originally published in Latest from Alliance on December 20, 2011
The scene was the first large-scale conference on family philanthropy in Spain. 160 hand-picked attendees with ties to significant family businesses were in the audience. What did I see from behind the podium as I spoke? Families, curiosity and tradition.
I’m at home in Spain, my business partner is Spanish and I have worked in Spain’s philanthropic sector for years. But I cut my teeth on philanthropy in the US, so I can’t help but have something of an outsider’s perspective. There may be other examples out there, but three things stood out for me last week.
Families. Families are front and centre in almost every aspect of Spanish society and culture, and philanthropy is no exception. The audience was made up of groups of sisters, aristocratic-looking grandfathers and mothers who had insisted on their grown children accompanying them, as well as dressed businessmen and couples of all ages. In contrast with family philanthropy conferences I’ve attended in the US, there were very few (if any) non-family professional foundation staff in the audience.
In Spain, ‘strengthening the family’ is one of the most common motivations for a family to move from spontaneous and generous, but often ad-hoc, individual giving to a philanthropic process that is more structured and thoughtful. Family harmony and continuity in the family business are at the forefront of everyone’s mind …
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