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The Community Foundation Blog

Introducing the next generation of Nelson changemakers
By The Community Foundation / November 15, 2021
Introducing the next generation of Nelson changemakers
The path to authentic multi-generational engagement can take time, as it did for the Nelson family. More than a decade ago, Dick and Judy Nelson asked the Community Foundation to facilitate a family meeting so their teenage grandchildren could share community issues that resonated with them. Among them, they expressed interests in the arts, children's cancer and the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. It was the beginning of Dick and Judy’s vision coming to life – a richer, fuller giving experience for the entire family.

Today, most of the grandchildren are young adults building careers and families of their own. While continuing to participate in annual grantmaking meetings, they have often taken a passive role in deference to their parents and grandparents. Jennifer, one of the Nelsons’ daughters, feared that without a change, they may lose interest and the fund would not continue as her parents intended. She sought help from Philanthropic Advisor Sarah Arenstein Levy to brainstorm ways to better engage them.

“I felt it was important for the next generation to step out and speak up. I wanted them to feel their voices were being heard,” said Jennifer. A few small tweaks garnered big results. They started the process earlier, working around schedules to ensure they had time to develop ideas for the next family meeting. Sarah offered to speak with each grandchild individually to help them articulate their interests within the scope of the family’s guiding principles.

Earlier this fall, the family unanimously supported granddaughter Stephanie’s proposal to fund the Wonder Tower at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. Her cousins became her most vocal champions and they have continued to work together to identify the right naming opportunity offered as part of the grant award.

“It has taken years for our kids to learn how philanthropy works and to recognize the value of our family’s giving over time, but it happened organically at their own pace. They have been energized by this experience and my parents are pleased to see them forming their own relationship with the Community Foundation.”
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