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Focus on Manatee: Here’s how your family can connect to each other through giving

Bring your heart into your work. Engage your family in charitable giving. Collaborate with people who can help you plan the most important decisions in your life.

When nationally recognized estate planning attorney Marvin Blum visited Bradenton this month, these heavy messages resonated with the group of professional advisors who gathered to learn from him.

Two years ago, Blum’s brother was diagnosed with cancer and died just weeks later. The time spent on the details of what his beloved sibling left behind provided a different perspective to the intellectual side of his 30-year career in legacy planning.

It’s not something you hear every day, but his genuine delivery based on a life-changing personal experience was inspiring.

Truly taking the time to learn about what is important to your family — and to those you serve through your work — will be recognized as an authentic connection, Blum told the group.

It’s true. I feel more connected to a doctor, a teacher or another leader when I know they are taking a sincere interest in me. I listen. I feel acknowledged. And I am more open to the knowledge that person shares. Anyone can infuse this philosophy into their work.

Many attorneys, CPAs, wealth managers and other advisors are unsung heroes in Manatee County. When they are excellent at what they do, they use Blum’s strategy of instilling both heart and head in their practice.

Susie Bowie mug.jpg
Susie Bowie is the executive director of the Manatee Community Foundation.

And when their clients have an interest in philanthropy, they often refer them to partners such as community foundations that can create giving strategies that serve the wishes of those donors into perpetuity.

Blum told the group that most of his own clients do not stay up at night worried about money or assets; they worry about their children. He recommends family meetings, as well as creating a family education process.

This can provide a forum to discuss what is important to kids and to pass on knowledge from older generations. Open conversations about money and how decisions are made in a family can make an enormous difference in the closeness of its members.

Based on work studied by Blum, family philanthropy is a determining factor in whether the family remains united over time. This is a powerful concept.

Manatee Community Foundation helps families strategize about their charitable legacies by engaging multiple generations when donors are open to it. Family conversations about what children and parents find meaningful is a way to bring them together.

First and foremost, we encourage families to explore the act of giving together through trial and error — while everyone is living and can enjoy the feeling of making a difference.

For years, experts such as Carol Weisman have urged parents to consider that raising charitable children is less about forcing them to agree about nonprofits and more about encouraging them to support any causes that ignite their passion.

When planning their legacies, it is becoming more common for donors to create one charitable fund that will perpetually award grants to the causes they care most about, while creating separate charitable funds that allow their children to support nonprofits most important to them.

Philanthropy is not an exclusive club. Whether your family has a net worth of $200 million or has $20 to give away each year, it’s possible to work together to build your connections with each other through talking about how each family member wants to impact the community.

Early learning, medical research, arts education, the environment, animal welfare, food security — the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Because giving is not a function of how much you have, it’s something all of us can do. Making a difference is a way to express your values in how you use the resources you do have — whether it is extra money or the way you volunteer, or treat customers and co-workers.

In the most important conversations you will ever have, use your heart as well as your head. Even those seemingly insignificant exchanges are a chance to connect deeply. Do it when you can.

For more tools to help your family connect to each other through giving, contact Manatee Community Foundation at (941) 747-7765 or visit online at

Susie Bowie is the executive director of Manatee Community Foundation. Founded in 1998, the foundation has awarded more than $28 million in grants and scholarships through the generosity of donors who live and give in Manatee County and beyond.

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