A First Foundation Blog

Family, Philanthropy, and Thanksgiving

| 11/21/17 1:51 PM

What if you could continue the feeling of gratefulness that Thanksgiving inspires in November throughout the year, among friends and family members? Following are ideas for inspiring a spirit of gratitude and giving both during the holidays and throughout the year:

  • Gratitude: Not just at Thanksgiving, but at family dinners, ask guests and family members to share what he/she is most grateful for in 2017.
  • Appreciation: There is no better feeling than being appreciated and valued. Go around the holiday dinner table and for each guest, ask another family member or guest to share one quality or thing they appreciate about this guest.
  • Philanthropy: Provide each child and/or grandchild with an envelope that contains a card with a dollar amount to give to charity in 2018. Ask your children/grandchildren to find a cause and an organization that they care about. Ask them to find out how their money will be used and encourage them bring the check to the organization. Share with them your philosophy for giving and ask them to be prepared to share their story of making a difference at Thanksgiving next year.
  • Service: Volunteer as a family. Fill boxes at a food pantry, make a donation to a person or family, or serve meals at a shelter. 
  • Generosity: Invite a widow, single person, or someone who is lonely to share in your family Thanksgiving meal. Have the family choose a single parent or a struggling family to give a grocery store gift card.
  • Legacy: Begin building your legacy story. Ask the children and grandchildren to interview the older generations about stories growing up, when they learned about giving back, life lessons, and what they want to be remembered for as an individual and as a family. You can create a list of questions, have them record the answers along with any photos, and put them in a safe place. Each year someone can read from the box.
  • Family Mission: Write your family mission statement together about what values you want family members to live by. Ask the creative family members to design a family crest or flag with images that reflect the family’s heritage and values.
  • Tradition and Memories: Create a new tradition for Thanksgiving dinner, and ask each family member to share a favorite family or holiday memory. Record them for safekeeping to read aloud at future Thanksgiving dinners.


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Pamela Rubin Cohen, Ed. M.
About the Author
Pamela Rubin Cohen, Ed. M.
Pamela Rubin Cohen is Vice President of Philanthropy Services for First Foundation Bank. She oversees the Philanthropy Services Group and is responsible for the administration of charitable foundations and donor advised funds for individual clients, families, and private foundations. In her role, Ms. Cohen provides services customized to clients’ philanthropic goals and interests, including strategic planning related to foundation focus areas and high impact funding opportunities, governance and succession planning, engaging the next generation, facilitation of board meetings, retreats and site visits, and coordination with legal and tax advisors. Ms. Cohen has more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit, philanthropy and education sectors. Prior to joining the firm, she worked at the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles and the California Community Foundation as a program officer. She has expertise in developing grant programs and strategic initiatives focused on education, the arts, medical research and technology, aging, housing, transitional youth, and animal welfare. She served as an independent consultant to numerous family and private foundations including The Eisner and Jane Wyman foundations. Previously, she worked at The Walt Disney Company managing its corporate responsibility and education grants program to foster innovation and creativity in elementary education across the United States. Her career began in Washington, D.C. as a government relations specialist in K-12 national education reform. She is a member of the Los Angeles Advisory Board for Facing History and Ourselves. Ms. Cohen is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (B.A., Political Science) and Harvard University (Ed.M., Education Policy and Human Development). Read more