Uniting A New Generation of Philanthropists- A Chat with Chelsea Toler-Hoffmann

I met Chelsea Toler-Hoffmann over a decade ago when I was working at her parent’s law firm in Austin, Texas.

We kept in touch over the years and always tried to catch up when she and her mother, Shawn, visited the East Coast to meet with clients. They are a joy to spend time with, so I was excited to see the family this past spring in Boston’s Back Bay to chat about life and their newest venture- a Family Foundation.

Chelsea now serves as the President of The Keep Families Giving Foundation, an Austin-based organization created to unite a new generation of philanthropists- something we both feel strongly about.

“You’re never too young to become a philanthropist. Whether you’re passionate about a cause as a teenager or are looking to contribute family funds later in life, there are endless ways to get involved,” Chelsea told me.

I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the organization, her plans for the year, and hopes for the future.

How did you and your family decide to start a family foundation?

While my family has always been passionate about giving back to our community, the loss of my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, really served as the catalyst for the decision to start our family’s foundation. After her passing, I decided there was no better way to honor her than to transition into the role of serving as the President of the Keep Families Giving Foundation and to help other families identify their giving passions to better pursue their philanthropy journeys. 

We are unique in that many family foundation’s are passed down from multiple generations and incorporate legacy as well as giving into their purpose. Some of these foundations have strict guidelines on what they will fund and give to and or have specific focus areas that each generation must learn to honor their family’s traditions. For our family, I had the unique opportunity to co-found this foundation along with my parents and really co-create what our foundation would focus on/give to. Together we developed our mission to cultivate and educate the next generation of philanthropists while creating a collaborative community across generations and sectors for social good. 

We have adopted a unique model in which our next-gen advisory board works alongside a mentor advisory board to nominate organizations and causes that they care about for KFG’s grant awards. Each next-gen philanthropist then has the unique opportunity to really explore their philanthropy passion areas and learn alongside their peers as well as mentors. Their interest areas range from film and the arts to healthcare and education.

Further, we do not limit our giving or partnerships to particular cause areas, but instead help support next-gen philanthropists in identifying and finding the causes they care about to make meaningful impact in the world.

We envision a world where the next-generation of philanthropists are provided with the education, mentorship, community, and tools needed to not only carry on their family legacy, but also champion their own social good causes and experiences.

What were you doing before you started Keep Families Giving and how does it correlate?

Prior to serving as the President of the Keep Families Giving Foundation, I had the unique opportunity to serve in I Live Here I Give Here’s, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, first development/fundraising role on a team of 6 women that helped raise $10 million in 24 hours for over 750+ nonprofit organizations in Central Texas as a part of our city’s only online giving day, Amplify Austin Day.

This unique experience helped me better understand philanthropy and the power of bringing sectors together for social good. In this role I helped work with the corporate sector on community engagement as well as family foundations that participated in the day to support many of their grantees. Helping others find their giving passions became larger than a career, but what I wanted to dedicate my life to. Together our city came together to better our city and support our local community in a unique and innovative way. 

After my time at I Live Here I Give Here, I felt prepared to transition into leading my own family’s foundation and continuing my lifelong purpose of helping others find their giving passions and pursue their philanthropy journeys to better the world. 

What are your plans for this next year?

We are thrilled to announce we will be launching our city’s first InterGEN Summit on February 29th-March 1st in Austin, Texas. This summit will bring together 150+ foundation, family office, university, nonprofit, and corporate leaders from around the globe for a unique opportunity to test, co-create, and innovate more impactful philanthropic models and solutions for change. This years’ summit will focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our goal for the gathering is to inspire doing good together while establishing Austin as an innovative philanthropy hub for the rest of the world, just in time to kick off SXSW!

We have partnered with UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Intergen Family Initiative with the Family Office Association, and Abilitie (a leadership training simulation company) for this initiative.

For our keynote conversation, we will hear from powerful philanthropic families like Jim Epstein (the great, great grandson of James Gamble — co-founder of Procter and Gamble, and the grandson of Clarence Gamble — the founder of Pathfinder International) from the Gamble Family about how they have successfully engaged many generations in their community work in partnership with a nonprofit organization their family founded, Pathfinder International. This will serve as a great example of the importance of the SDG goal — 17 Partnerships. Since the next-gen advisory board has selected the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as our theme for this year, all of our speakers will incorporate one or more of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals into their sessions.

We look forward to learning a great deal from hosting this inaugural summit about how to better our world when we work together across generations and sectors for change.

How can people get involved?

We will have various events and programs available to get involved in throughout the year. You can identify a next-gen board member that shares similar passions and connect to them by sending a message to summit@keepfamiliesgiving.org. We are also always open to partnerships and or collaborations if you might want to work together on a social good initiative. 

We are also in need of volunteers and a few mission aligned sponsor for our upcoming spring summit. You can learn more about this by reaching out to me directly at chelsea@keepfamiliesgiving.org.

What fuels your passion for giving back?

Seeing others find causes and initiatives they care about and then being able to make real change in these areas. Every person deserves to understand the gift of generosity.

Your voice and your passions matter — together we can make real impact in the world.

You can connect with Keep Families Giving on Facebook, Instagram, or register for the Intergen Philanthropy Summit via the links below. Use discount code KFG20 for 20% Off:

OFF THE RECORD 2 DAY PASSES

OFF THE RECORD SATURDAY PASS

OFF THE RECORD SUNDAY PASS

Hope to see you in Austin!

Encouraging Young People To Be Authentic and Mentally Strong

Mental strength is not something we are taught in school. We’re advised to get good grades, earn accolades, attend a good college, and find a suitable career upon graduation. Most graduates don’t even have the opportunity to work in the field they studied, let alone pursue a degree in a subject they’re passionate about.

Students listen to their parents, societal expectations, and those who came before them. “Go into finance,” “work your way to the top,” and “lean in” are the messages we hear as we try our best to make a living for ourselves. Our best doesn’t seem good enough, leaving many anxious, depressed, and doubtful.

Who is actually encouraged to be authentic? At what point in our lives are we advised to be mentally strong?

Success comes in many forms, but to me, true success is learning to embody being true to ourselves, not what society tells us we “should” be.

We’re given hearts, souls, and dreams for a reason; why would we sell them to corporate America?

I’m currently 33 years old and have lived in Metro Detroit, San Francisco, Austin, New York City, and Boston as a young professional. I searched near and far to find happiness and success, yet I kept running from myself because I could never seem to find my place.

I didn’t stop to explore the big question of “what is fulfillment?” until I left New York in July of 2016. I purged my fashion blogger / PR girl wardrobe, abandoned my Astoria apartment, and sent boxes home to Michigan. I spent that summer living simply at a family lake house, finally learning the real meaning of “mindfulness.”

Instead of racing to the top, I began to dig deep.

Although each profession has a purpose, it’s the ego and greed attached to certain people or positions that irks me. Earning a big paycheck doesn’t make a person strong; what would they do without it? What type of person are they without the title attached to their name?

It’s easy to hide behind a career, wealth, or a facade; but the true accomplishment is knowing who you are on the inside. It takes mental strength to believe in one’s self; yet when you realize you are already enough, the world becomes much brighter, and much more hopeful.

Embracing Playfulness 

If you’ve been following along for a while, you probably know how much I love angel cards.  Just when I need an answer, my intuition (which I like to think of as a nudge from the divine) guides me to exactly the right card I need at that moment.  I’ve also begun to give other people readings, which is even more fun!  My connection with source has been one of the most comforting and clear indications that I am on the right track to living out my purpose, which is to help guide others and carry important messages.  But how?

One of the cards that repeatedly comes up in my readings is “Playfulness.”  Each time I wondered why- why would I get this card?


Then, it clicked.  I’ve been so concerned about the past and the future that haven’t been living in the now.  Instead of embracing playfulness, I have been taking life too seriously.

I needed a reset.

After a decade of working in business related jobs and marketing roles, my heart kept telling me it wasn’t right.  Not only did my heart lead me in different directions, so did my bosses.  They didn’t like when I challenged the way things worked or stood up for my creative ideas.  I knew I was wasting my time and talents.

It can be a challenge being an indigo child in any work environment, let alone in an industry where money and greed takes over.  I didn’t care about “goals” or sales numbers- I cared about authenticity.  

Throughout the years many of my jobs or projects were unfulfilling or seemed unethical, too.  How could I market or represent things I didn’t believe in- or worse, didn’t benefit people?  It was hard to play, live in the now, and feel good about myself when I wasn’t aligned with my purpose.

A month ago I put my foot down and decided to take a break.  I did a lot of thinking, meditating, reading, and praying.  During this time I barely wrote, hardly left the house, and certainly wasn’t social.  It was a very uncomfortable time… until I received the message.

One afternoon I opened my inbox to find an email from a school administrator about bringing me in for an interview.  Even though I applied for the job, had never thought seriously about working in a school; when I was a kid, I spent most of my time with adults.  I was the shy one in class who didn’t let loose and play; I was too embarrassed to show the world who I was.

Until now.

Shortly after, I was scheduled to substitute teach at three different elementary schools.  I was shocked, thrilled, and scared.  Although I grew up in that environment- my mother was an elementary school secretary- I had very little experience with large groups of children.  Yet somehow, for some reason, it felt like it was exactly what I should be doing.  My gut feeling told me I would be good at teaching, although I had never done it before.  However, I knew that my ten years of handling nearly impossible businessmen had toughened me up to effectively communicate with anyone.  You have a much better chance at getting your message across to children than trying to teach an old dog new tricks.

After my first day- despite feeling nervous and a little shy- I felt more alive than I have in years.  For the first time, I felt I was doing something meaningful in the workplace.  The very first time.  Each day got a little easier, and I felt more comfortable.


Spending time in a school environment has also helped to mend my own wounds, too.  Childhood was difficult for me; I was an old soul who was singled out.  I was too shy and insecure to let loose, be a kid, and play.  Today, I am beyond grateful to be able to make even a tiny difference in a child’s life; I can recognize those who are uncomfortable, struggling, or need someone to talk to.  I understand what it is like when you don’t know who to sit by at lunch, how it feels to be bullied, and to be different than the other kids.  Thanks to my own experiences, I can empathize yet also stand my ground with the kids who act out.  Without my childhood experiences and challenges in the workplace over the years, I wouldn’t be as patient and compassionate as I am able to be today.

While I don’t know whether I am going to pursue a full time role in teaching (we can’t plan our futures- we can only be guided), I do know that education is much closer to my destiny than anything I have ever done.  It goes hand-in-hand with writing, public speaking, and philanthropy- all passions of mine.  I know I am on the right path- at last.

I’m also grateful for the opportunity to work in an environment where play is embraced.  Instead of standing in the back of the class and watching everyone dance and have fun like I did as a child, I have started to join in… as an adult.  I could see some of the kids who were hesitant to dance watch me act silly, so they started to dance, too.

Thanks to the children, I am learning what it feels like to be even closer to consciousness- to still have that wide-eyed wonder that hasn’t yet been polluted by society.  It is a magical, warm feeling- and just because I am a grown-up, it doesn’t mean I have to let that magic go.  I will hold on to it each and every day. 💫