Asking the Hard Questions is Not Always Fun

Last month, I met with a family that wanted to honor their father through the creation of a foundation. The children’s father had recently passed away. He loved music – all kinds of music – and had been a long-time supporter of inner-city schools, with various options to introduce music to their students. His children wanted to start a foundation that would donate instruments to inner-city schools.

I moved last September and made the difficult decision to – finally – part with my trumpet. It was an instrument I had played from 4th grade through my senior year in high school. I had been unwilling to let go of it because it had been such a significant part of my upbringing. However, after 20+ years of not playing it (even though I could still remember how!), I decided to donate it to a place where it could be used.

With this recent experience in mind, I gently asked the family if they were aware that there were similar organizations that existed. They were aware of two, but they felt that they could do better. I inquired about their father’s intentions, and he had requested that a sizable donation be made to an organization similar to the one that his children were talking about starting. I suggested that they really might be interested in starting a nonprofit, and not a foundation. However, the family was not interested in this either. Finally, I proposed that their best option might be to establish a Donor Advised Fund at the local community foundation. Again, the family rejected this option. They wanted to run a Foundation and they wanted full control.

The family called me a week later to share that they had found another consultant to assist them with accomplishing their goal. They implied that the person asked way less questions than I did and was fully supportive of what they were trying to do. I worry for them, and am concerned that they will ultimately be disappointed with the impact that they are able to make. At the same time, I take comfort in the fact that I gave them information on the various options available, even if they weren’t very open to hearing them.

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