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Weaving Philanthropy through Generations of a Family

A donor advised fund at Austin Community Foundation helps a family give grants that reflect the interests of four generations

Steve Saunders“My parents cared deeply that after they were gone there would be a common thread for my family that would cause us to get together regularly,” Steve Saunders says. Saunders and his family make grants that reflect the interests of three generations, choosing the ease of a Donor-Advised Fund over operating a family foundation.

An estate attorney, Saunders serves on the Austin Community Foundation’s board of governors and has also helped his clients realize their philanthropic goals by creating a fund at the Foundation instead of creating a private family foundation.

After decades of personal giving, the Saunders family wanted to bring structure and strategy to their giving. Their fund at Austin Community Foundation began as a family foundation created by Saunders’ parents Charles and Betti Saunders. Houston residents since 1945, the couple created their family foundation in 1993 which Charles managed from his Houston law office. Eventually the work became burdensome, so the family sought an easier way to give.

The Saunders family had the opportunity to “test drive” the Austin Community Foundation when they created a scholarship in 1998 to honor Steve’s maternal grandparents and benefit students in the small town of Graham, Texas, where Betti grew up. “What we found at the Austin Community Foundation was personal relationships, community knowledge, responsible investment and reasonable fees,” Saunders recalls.

When the opportunity arose for the family’s own foundation to find a new home, they decided to create a Donor Advised Fund at the Austin Community Foundation. “Austin Community Foundation was the cost-effective choice to continue our family’s philanthropy,” says Saunders. “They do a really great job for a reasonable cost.”

“Thanks to Austin Community Foundation, philanthropy continues to be woven into our lives,” says Saunders. “We are brought together at least once a year to focus on something bigger than ourselves and honor our parents’ desire for us to all be engage and involved in our communities through philanthropy.” Everyone in the family has a voice, from Saunders and his siblings to the teenage grandkids. “My parents would be proud. Having a Donor Advised Fund at Austin Community Foundation has worked precisely as they would have wanted. We get to do the fun part, which is making grants, and leave the work to Austin Community Foundation.”