The passionate generosity of countless American families has inspired – and continues to inspire – extraordinary gifts. Indeed, we may know many of these families more by their philanthropy than by the business successes that made their largesse possible. What is most remarkable is the very phenomenon of American family philanthropy itself. An astonishing number of families make record-setting, private contributions and volunteer countless hours on behalf of the causes and communities they care deeply about. Many have done so over multiple generations. They have enriched the lives of millions not only in this country but around the world.

Yet, precious little is known about the value private family philanthropy represents in our society and the essential role it plays in our democracy. It would be easy to dismiss this as just one more thing that the media or Congress doesn’t understand. But the fact is that the contributions and potential of family philanthropy are not well understood even by many of those engaged in the practice or by the millions and millions of Americans who benefit from charitable gifts.

There are obvious consequences to this lack of awareness. In the absence of understanding, many question the value, even the legitimacy, of family control of philanthropic wealth. They ask whether public policy should encourage private giving. While these consequences deserve attention and action, a little-noticed but potentially tragic consequence may well be that many who might be inspired to give, don’t, and many worthy organizations that might be supported, are not.

Since 2007, the National Center for Family Philanthropy has held 15 regional and national discussions and conducted a major study to more clearly articulate the value of family philanthropy – both for families themselves, as well as for our nation’s philanthropic tradition. Our study did not overlook the many difficult and challenging questions inherent in family giving. Indeed, by articulating these challenges and identifying distinguishing assets, the study reveals a more nuanced, richer portrait of family philanthropy than ever before created.

Read the full article about family philanthropy in democracy by the National Center for Family Philanthropy.