The philanthropist Emily Tow Jackson is executive director of her family's foundation and a mother raising three school-age children in a bucolic Connecticut town. For the first seven years, The Tow Foundation did not employ any staff and funded mostly ‘‘meds and eds’’—gifts to medical research to cure a diseases afflicting a family member or friend and professorships at family members’ various alma maters. After Tow Jackson became its full-time leader, The Tow Foundation grew more committed to solving social problems and soon emerged as a leading advocate for reforming Connecticut’s broken juvenile justice system. Tow Jackson had never before worked with court-involved or incarcerated youth, nor was she trained as a lawyer. But the foundation’s funding and advocacy efforts contributed to dramatic decreases in Connecticut’s rates of incarceration that paved the way for a major legislative change that moved sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds from the adult criminal justice system back to the juvenile justice system. The Tow Foundation is an excellent example of the first best practice of catalytic philanthropy, “Advocate for Change”
Examples of family foundations we studied that do more than give include:
- Jacobs Family Foundation of San Diego, California
- CityBridge Foundation of Washington, D.C.
- William C. Graustein Memorial Fund of New Haven, Connecticut
- Meyer Memorial Trust of Portland, Oregon
- Nathan Cummings Foundation of New York, New York
- The Tow Foundation of New Canaan, Connecticut, and more