Philanthropic Impact


Information and Resources for Donors and Professional Advisors

Community Foundation can help family businesses meet charitable goals

Laura Brownfield

Families want to ensure that their family businesses’ charitable efforts reflect their entrepreneurial spirit and the values of their family. With a 36-year history, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan knows the needs and opportunities in our region and can advise in any area of interest to help families define a legacy for themselves and their businesses. We can help family business owners and the next generation focus their philanthropy in southeast Michigan where there is a strategic link to the family business. 

Family businesses have played an integral part in helping our region thrive by ensuring the next generation and the communities that support these businesses benefit from their success. The Community Foundation has helped families accomplish their charitable goals by working alongside their independent foundations or assuming the entirety of their philanthropic missions. Many retiring business owners have chosen to partner with the Community Foundation as they transfer control of their businesses to the next generation to assist in tax and charitable planning.  

The following questions can help family businesses create or grow an effective corporate philanthropy strategy within the family enterprise. 

  • Are the charitable priorities based on the owner’s personal values and long-term vision for their family and legacy in their community? 
  • Do the owner and the organization consider employee input in defining a philanthropic strategy?  How does the owner respond to the requests from the next generation of family members? 
  • How does the owner select causes that appeal to interests of all family members? 
  • Does the family business have a system for prioritizing requests for sponsorships, charity event invitations, and requests for donations? 
  • What is the communication strategy for maintaining strong relationships with the charities whose requests the company declines?  
  • Could a corporate donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation help manage the administration of the organization’s philanthropy?  
  • Is there a corporate foundation in place and, if so, could it be streamlined into a corporate donor-advised fund for efficiency and to leverage tax strategies? 
  • Does the owner have a family foundation in place and, if so, could a fund at the Community Foundation complement the family foundation

Partnering with the Community Foundation provides more access to resources, issue-area expertise, and tools. The Community Foundation’s staff with knowledge in the areas of the arts, environment, health, human services, youth, education, and entrepreneurship, among others can help to identify causes in southeast Michigan that align with the organization, the owner, and all family members. 

Create a legacy with the Community Foundation 

We are here to serve your family businesses by setting up a corporate donor-advised fund, creating donor-advised funds for employees, or establishing a scholarship program for children of employees. We can collaborate with family business owners on the sale or redemption of closely-held business interests to fund philanthropic objectives. For family foundations, partnering with the Community Foundation can leverage resources by establishing any of the funds described above, as well as other vehicles, to carry out the family’s legacy. 

Communicate your family’s charitable mission  

Once the priorities are identified and a strategy agreed upon, consider how the family business communicates this information to employees and other stakeholders. For example, is it a priority to share civic engagement with the wider public, such as through a page on the company’s website, or is the company’s approach to keep its philanthropy quiet?   

Helping family business owners ask the right questions can make a big difference in the success of their corporate philanthropy programs and will be crucial in transitioning these charitable efforts to the next generation.  

To learn more about strategic philanthropy for family businesses please contact Laura Brownfield, general counsel of the Community Foundation at (313)-961-6675 or