By Jane Leighty Justis, Program Director, The Leighty Foundation, and Andrea Pactor, Associate Director, Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
In an interview with Andrea Pactor of Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Exponent Philanthropy member Jane Leighty Justis, board chair of The Leighty Foundation, describes steps she and the foundation leadership are taking to educate and engage the foundation’s next generations.
The Leighty Foundation’s three generations
When Ike Leighty was in his 60s, he and a partner began a small manufacturing business. Each year the company became more profitable. Ike realized, as he says, he “had been given the stewardship of more steak than he could eat,” and decided with his accountant to create a family foundation. A widower, Ike asked his two children, Bill and Jane, to join him as foundation directors. They joined and became Generation 2, or G2.
In the early years, the family treated the foundation as a “giant checkbook” according to Jane, and awarded grants and contributions without clear direction. Jane’s background in nonprofit management gave her a desire to experiment with becoming more strategic. She became executive director in 1990 as a logical and natural next step in the foundation’s evolution, and her experience with the Women’s Philanthropy Institute in the 1990s reinforced her sense that women often have unique perspectives and contributions to make as leaders in this field.
For 20 years, Ike and his two children and their spouses governed the foundation guided by the mission: “to carry on the Leighty family legacy of service and stewardship by leveraging our time and talents, as well as our financial resources, primarily in the areas of earth protection, education, and the promotion of volunteer engagement and philanthropy.”
The third generation grows up
When Ike’s four grandchildren (G3) were between 10 and 14 years old, he invited them to help with the foundation’s stewardship. Stewardship is not a word Ike uses lightly; stewardship and service are two of his core values. He clarified that this was an invitation, not an expectation. Foundation participation was not a prerequisite for being a “family member in good standing.”
For G3 members who requested it, the board allotted them up to $250 a year to begin their involvement with the foundation. Through their teen years, their allotment increased, and each one took advantage of it sporadically.
As the foundation grew and evolved, it enlisted the help of consultants. One met with the grandchildren to discuss the elements they thought might be important in their education about philanthropy, and what criteria they thought should be met for consideration for membership on the board. When G3 members were in their 20s, they were invited to become advisors to the board and to attend board meetings.