Sharna Goldseker learned at an early age that her great uncle had stewarded her immigrant grandfather’s real estate fortune into a charitable family foundation, and that someday she would serve on its board of directors. As a young philanthropist Goldseker felt privileged to shoulder the weighty responsibilities of charitable giving, but she also felt unworthy. “I wanted to earn the right to my seat at the table,” she said in her keynote presentation at the 14th Annual Balser Symposium, “At the same time, I didn’t want to feel paralyzed by privilege or the vast possibilities of how to share this wealth.”
That attitude, typical of her generation, launched Goldseker on a path of personal and professional discovery. Working in the nonprofit sector for more than two decades, she has become a leading expert in intergenerational philanthropy and America’s $59 trillion wealth transfer. It led her to become the founder of 21/64, a consultancy helping families chart ways to pass on their wealth and engage their children in philanthropy. Her book, Generation Impact, How Next Gen Donors are Revolutionizing Giving — co-authored with Michael Moody — outlines the vastly different generational experiences and perspectives that motivate personal philanthropy.
Our Balser Symposium panel of intergenerational Atlanta families, The Garretts and the Franks, brought Goldseker’s presentation into focus and proved that we are living a unique time when as many as five generations in a single family — from Traditionalists to Gen-Z —now wrestle with how and where to give their time and treasure.
For Mary Ellen Garret and her daughter Patsy, early experiences of philanthropy go back to childhood memories of giving at church and volunteering at school. Mary Ellen sees herself as a “connector,” steering people to passion projects and helping them sort out the differences between “today gifts,” and “tomorrow or legacy gifts” beyond their lifetime. Patsy calls herself an “influencer,” who has a habit of bringing her NextGen clients along to local fundraising events, just to show them and inspire them about what’s possible in Atlanta.
The mother-daughter team are principals at The Garrett Group, wealth management advisors with deep philanthropic roots in Atlanta. Mary Ellen has been a special champion for United Way and Patsy has developed a focus on arts and cultural giving.
Lois Frank and her son Isaac, who is just one of four Frank sons, opened a window on how their family foundation decision making has evolved. They use a consensus model for some of their giving, but also empower each son to follow their own philanthropic priorities. By requiring each sibling to contribute to the Frank Family Foundation, they all have autonomy. “Our sons, their wives, and even our grandchildren, are using our family foundation for tikkun olam, repairing the world. Larry and I have a strong Jewish lens when we make philanthropic decisions, but our kids have their own passion projects” Lois said.
Son Isaac credits Lois and Larry’s lifetime example of living modestly and giving generously, and their love for Judaism and Israel, with inspiring his own choices. It was Isaac who observed that among his peers, Jewish identity was shaky. In discussion with his family he helped shape and now leads The Frank Mission, an annual expense-paid trip to Israel targeting NextGen Atlantans with leadership potential. The trip begins in Poland at Auschwitz, rooting participants in the trauma of the Holocaust. It moves on to modern Israel where the redemptive reality of the modern Jewish state, along with its weighty political challenges, show young Jews how their tradition can connect them to deep and important values.