Antiquities, Lasagna, and Preserving a Family Legacy

I spend much of my professional life working directly with families to preserve the past, yet build on top of it. While it sounds lofty, it really involves listening to families about what was important in their shared history, helping them translate that to what it means for their values today, and putting in place plans to transmit that history and those values to subsequent generations. It’s a process that, if done well, repeats itself. The next generation then takes what they can from their ancestors and makes it their own. And so on.

I had a chance to see this in full force during a family vacation to Italy this summer. The purpose of the trip was two-fold: to explore the country’s cultural and Philanthropy Blog Antiquities, lasagna, and preserving a family legacyarchitectural delights, and to trace some of my own family history. My long-ago art history studies meant that our museum visits read like an Art History 101 textbook: the Palazzo Publico in Siena to see the 14th Century Ambrogio Lorenzetti murals and Simon Martini frescoes; the Vatican Museums to see the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms; the Coliseum and the Roman Forum; the Borghese Gallery to see the magnificent Baroque Bernini sculptures. As is sometimes the case during these excursions, I had several “ah-hah” moments along the way that I can bring back to my daily work.

The first came thanks to an amazing Roman tour guide at the Forum. She described what she called the “lasagna” of preservation efforts in Italy. Archeologists in the 19th and early 20th century who worked on the excavation of the Forum chose to preserve the medieval churches that were built on top of Roman ruins. Rather than just tear down one or the other, they kept both in place, so that modern visitors can see exactly how the site was used over time, how the needs of the community evolved, and how the prevailing political and cultural values dictated the use of public spaces. Preserving the past, and building on top of it.

Philanthropy Blog Antiquities, lasagna, and preserving a family legacy 2The second ah-hah moment came when I visited the town where my grandfather was born. He left there in 1922, part of a massive wave of early to mid-20th century immigration. I found a town nestled in the hills of the northeast Campania region that likely looked much as it did 600 years ago when the town was founded. Its buildings have stood the test of time and its residents are proud of its heritage. The central piazza came alive at night with a multi-generational mix of residents making use of its public spaces. Many of those same values came with the wave of immigrants who left for my hometown in the US, which is now its sister city. I met the current generation of the town’s leadership, who are working to make a strong community for its residents and also attract tourism and cultural vibrancy. The evening of our stay, the local youth group hosted a Battle of the Bands of sorts, with food and music emanating from the town square all night long. They are preserving the past, and building on top of it.

Your Family Recipe

So what does this mean for families and family foundations? Incorporating these ingredients can help you to make your own family “lasagna.”

  • Sometimes you have to go back to your roots so you can understand your past. This helps ground you in what’s important, and what is lasting from past generations.
  • Then you can decide what to pull forward, what you leave in place for future generations to understand and learn from, and what is ok to leave behind.
  • Once you have a blend of your past and present, you can apply it to your current goals and passions. Sometimes the layers of the “lasagna” matter, and seeing them laid out in front of you can inspire you to create new things from the foundations of the past.

We hope your summer travels have given you time with family and loved ones, a bit of time for reflection, and inspiration to launch into the fall and year-end giving season.

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About the Author

Gioia PeruginiGioia Perugini is Associate Director, Family Office and Philanthropy Services at Hemenway & Barnes. She works with individuals, families, advisors, charitable trusts and foundations to provide a range of philanthropic and client services. Read Gioia’s full biography.


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The Smithsonian, Ralph Lauren and a Lesson in Philanthropy

This past weekend, I traveled to Washington, DC for a family event. We had a half-day free before we flew back to Boston, and decided to do some sightseeing along the National Mall. At my daughter’s request, we went to the National Museum of American History. I explained in the car ride downtown that the Smithsonian Museums were all free, in part due to government support because of their role as a repository of our nation’s historical and cultural treasures. Given what I do, I also went into a detailed explanation about the role of private philanthropy – from “Friends” groups to individual, foundation, and corporate sponsorships – in subsidizing the insufficient (and some might argue inadequate) government funding for the exhibition, interpretation, and conservation of our nation’s cultural treasures. (My family is used to these monologues).

The Smithsonian was founded through the bequest of a British scientist who died in 1829. His will stipulated that, should his nephew and heir die without heirs, his estate would go to the United States to found “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” In 1836, Congress accepted the gift, then the equivalent of $515,169, and established the Smithsonian in 1846. The total number of objects in the collection is estimated at nearly 155 million, and its museums hosted nearly 29 million visitors in 2018. Yet its federal funding is only 62% of its annual $1 billion budget. (source

On the flight down, I had just finished reading Phil Buchanan’s Giving Done Right. Walking into the Museum of American History, there could not have been a more fitting example of his central thesis: that philanthropy, however flawed and challenged, is a critical component of our nation’s social, cultural, and educational fabric. Phil writes “In the United States, giving has done more good than even many givers realize, and though many challenges remain, it has contributed to much of what makes this a great country….Giving has made a huge difference in all of our lives.”

Our first stop inside the Museum was the gallery housing the original “Star Spangled Banner.” It is one of the most treasured artifacts in the Stars and StripesSmithsonian’s collection. It owes its conservation and restoration to a generous public/private partnership, with lead gifts from the Ralph Lauren/Polo Corporation, coupled with the dozens of donors listed on the plaque on the way out of the exhibit. The Star Spangled Banner was literally playing in the background as I read the plaque that explained what that funding was able to do for this important piece of American history. Without private funding, would they only have conserved 9 of the 15 stars on the flag? Or only been able to stop 62% of the deterioration?

As we walked through the galleries displaying countless American artifacts (from native communities, immigrant neighborhoods, and every day people) that explain our complex American history, I couldn’t help but think of the archivists, historians, preservationists, and educators whose work allowed us to breeze in and out of exhibits and reinforce what my 6th and 9th graders learn in their American history classes. Private philanthropy from generous individual, corporate, and foundation donors has enabled detailed analysis, interpretation, and preservation efforts, at the Smithsonian and in thousands of institutions nationally. The public viewing those exhibits – from all parts of the country and the world, based on the voices I heard – likely wasn’t reflecting on the complexities of private foundations, donor advised funds, or charitable trusts. Yet charitable gifts are as much a part of the American legacy as the artifacts on display, and allow us to connect to our past and chart a course for our future in tremendously important ways.

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About the Author:

Gioia PeruginiGioia Perugini is Associate Director, Family Office and Philanthropy Services at Hemenway & Barnes. She works with individuals, families, advisors, charitable trusts and foundations to provide a range of philanthropic and client services. Read Gioia’s full biography.

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Women in Philanthropy

Women in Philanthropy

As we kick off Women’s History Month, I would like to take some time to discuss one of my favorite topics – women in philanthropy.

Women have been philanthropists since the beginning of time – giving of their time, talent, and treasure to those in need and to those helping society address its most difficult and pressing issues. In the United States, the history of female philanthropists dates back to 1643 when Ann Radcliffe Moulson donated funding for the first scholarship fund at Harvard University. Through their philanthropic efforts women alleviated poverty, promoted religion, increased education, fought against slavery, influenced public policy, and secured the right to vote.

Fast forward to 1991 when two female fundraisers, Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor, founded what is now the Women’s Philanthropy Institute (WPI), part of Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. These women recognized the need to dive-in to two issues: the difference in the way women approach giving and how that is an important factor in fundraising, specifically in cultivating women donors. The WPI and a myriad of other institutions and organizations have conducted studies and released reports on women’s impact on philanthropy in recent years.

Here’s what we know: Women control more than half of the wealth in the United States. We are more likely to give to charity and to give higher amounts than men. We are more emotionally invested in our causes, tend to want to donate time as well as money, are more driven by impact, and prefer to plan out our giving.

Given these facts, I’d like to address two trends in philanthropy that are being driven by women.

The growth in collective giving

The concept behind collective giving is that pooled giving has a greater impact on the community. It is also a way to democratize philanthropy by giving all women a voice in the grantmaking process. The number of giving circles in the US tripled between 2007 and 2017, with women making up the majority of members. One such local organization is The Philanthropy Connection (TPC). TPC’s mission is to inspire, teach, and enable women to engage in collective philanthropy in order to provide grants to charitable organizations that improve the quality of life for low-resource individuals and families living in Massachusetts. What makes TPC unique is its effort to foster the next generation of women philanthropists. In fact, it has a Fellowship program for 21-35 year-olds, which provides sponsored membership to young women who want to help change the face of philanthropy in Boston and contribute to and learn from TPC’s Give.Receive.Learn model of collective giving. Hemenway & Barnes is a sponsor of TPC’s Young Philanthropist Initiative (YPI), and I have served as co-chair of the YPI since 2016.

Creating a legacy of giving

At Hemenway & Barnes LLP, many women with whom we work are interested in leaving a legacy for their families, focusing on how to instill philanthropic values in their children and grandchildren at an early age. We are in the midst of the largest transfer of wealth in U.S. history, a large portion of which will be allocated for charitable purposes. The next generation will have unprecedented financial resources and will transform philanthropy – choosing to give now rather than wait to give while they accumulate wealth. Women see this as an opportunity to help influence and shape how their children and grandchildren approach philanthropy. Families might choose to create an advisory board to engage and educate the next generation before they are formally invited to be Trustees or board members. Others might choose to set up Donor Advised Funds for each member of the next generation. Whatever path they take to creating a legacy for the families, women are influencing how their households, and in some cases extended family, are thinking about giving.

We hope you will join us in helping women make their mark in philanthropy.

Additional Resources

About the Author

Jessica CoakleyJessica Coakley is a Philanthropy Associate at Hemenway & Barnes. She works with individuals, families, charitable trusts and foundations to provide a range of philanthropic and client services. Jesse advises or manages a number of New England-based family foundations that support nonprofits working in education, youth development, workforce development, human services and the arts. She is also a board member of The Philanthropy Connection.

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