One of the most common questions we receive from prospective donors is about whether they can involve their family. The answer is yes. We are thrilled to help families start or continue traditions in philanthropy, explore interests across generations, and take care of administrative details so they can concentrate on what matters most – giving.
Recently we spoke with Bill Thalhimer and his daughter, Katherine Adamson, to find out how their close-knit family is working together to honor their family legacy, but also support new and emerging needs in the Richmond community. They share how leadership has transitioned from one generation to the next, how TCF has supported them, and how much fun they are having along the way.
What factors led you to bring the family foundation into The Community Foundation?
My parents initially established their charitable fund in 1953 with a gift of Thalhimer Brothers common stock and made distributions totaling $660 to various charitable organizations. My brother Bobby, sister Barbara, and I joined the family foundation board beginning in 1969. As my parents began to see the importance of a transition to the next generation, we began to take leadership positions while having the benefit of Thalhimers’ secretaries do much of the required work needed to run the Foundation. In 1993, I became Chairman and at that time no longer had the benefit of having secretaries to do the lion’s share of the work. I was working with lawyers, accountants, each charity to make sure they had the proper 501(c)(3) designation, mailing letters out, writing checks, keeping the minutes of meetings, setting up our family meetings, as well as monitoring our investments with our financial advisors. It became obvious to our family as we transitioned to the next generation that it was no longer practical to do all the administrative work that was required. With Bobby working at The Community Foundation, it seemed like a good fit for our family and in 2006, we made a decision to create the Barbara J. Thalhimer and William B. Thalhimer, Jr. Family Fund.
Ten years later, has the arrangement fulfilled your expectations?
Bill: Ten years later after making our family decision of moving our funds to TCF, we are having fun! Our family no longer has the administrative burden of all of the details of running our family foundation, but continues to have the benefits of the decision making process of where to allocate the funds in the Richmond community. Now as I observe our children taking leadership, my brother, sister, and I are advisors and the professional staff at TCF has exceeded our expectations and is doing a fabulous job. Through the years as we were thinking about how to transition from one generation to the next, with the help of TCF, that no longer is an issue. I would highly recommend to families that are in similar situations, that they look at our family foundation as an example of how a 63-year-old multi-generational foundation can be managed while the charitable giving continues to be directed by the family.
Do you have traditions to honor your grandparents?
Katherine: Every meeting begins with a tradition of a family photo and reading the vision statement of my grandparents. Not one meeting goes by that we are not thinking about them and what they would have advised. They are always with us in spirit. The values that they instilled from the start are at the forefront of our minds with each decision that we make while also being sure to be forward thinking in our decision-making approaches.
How has your grandparents’ legacy influenced your path in philanthropy?
Katherine: My Grandparents left an indelible legacy on all of their children and grandchildren. Giving was always a major part of their lives. I remember my grandfather telling us often that the community gave so much to us and it is our job to give back to the community. Seeing my grandparents’ lifelong philanthropic efforts and the impact that it has had on our community, I think has had an intrinsic effect on me and all of my family members to want to continue their charitable legacy.
How has family shaped your philanthropy and vice versa?
Bill: My father always said philanthropy is more than the investment of money. It is about the investment of time, energy, and passion in the community. One of the guiding principles of the foundation was to take an active role in the community. When each family member comes to the boardroom with their unique knowledge and experiences, we are able to make informed financial decisions respecting their community work. Dad encouraged each of us to spread our time and resources broadly throughout the community, and to run the foundation as a business. While it is a serious business meeting, my parents would be so pleased to see how much fun we have as a family and how well their children and grandchildren work together to continue their charitable vision.
How have your experiences influenced conversations you have with your own children?
Katherine: It is so important to me to continue the philanthropic values and volunteerism that my grandparents and parents instilled in me to my own children. I always tell them that in order to receive you must also give. Currently, they have spent this year collecting coins for a “Charity Bank Challenge” and will meet with their cousins who have done the same to research and decide which charitable organization to collectively donate to. It may be small, but it is a start to a lifetime of giving mimicking the decision-making process of our family foundation.
What do you find exciting about the multi-generational dynamic?
Katherine: When Grandma and Grandpa were still active board members but realized that the next generation needed to step up, they slowly began to add the oldest grandchildren to join the board. Now, naturally, every one of their children and grandchildren participate. For us, it is incredibly rewarding, exciting, unifying, fun, and gratifying for all of us to work together to continue their legacy. And while we always strive to make decisions thinking about what Grandma and Grandpa would have done or advocated for, we also find it important to make forward thinking decisions. Each of us brings unique experience to the table from our community work, helping to stay current and make thoughtful and methodical financial decisions. We are all so proud of Grandma and Grandpa and we hope they would be equally proud of all of us and the close knit family that they created continuing their lifelong philanthropic vision and principles that they began 63 years ago.
Learn more about establishing a fund