By Christopher Zacher
Jamie Forbes turned a passion for giving into his life’s work.
For Jamie Forbes, philanthropy is a family affair. In his work as a philanthropy advisor, he focuses on helping individuals and their families discover the joy of giving.
As a Founding Partner at Forbes Legacy Advisors, Jamie works with families to clarify their shared values. He helps them to find opportunities for expressing those values through charities and other philanthropic initiatives. His services not only benefit the larger community but provide parents with a way to foster a sense of generosity in their children.
“It’s a great mechanism for bringing families together because it’s not about any individual,” Jamie says. “It’s not about the acquisition of things. It’s about doing good things for the community and causes that you care about.”
An Inspiring Family of His Own
Prior to starting his own advisory firm, Jamie spent 25 years working in large corporate environments. “I learned a ton and enjoyed that,” he says of his time in the business world. “But I always felt like there was something missing for me in that work.”
After pivoting toward the non-profit sector, Jamie found that he enjoyed doing mission-based work. Around the same time, his own daughters committed some acts of generosity that Jamie found inspiring. While on a family vacation to the Caribbean, Jamie’s children spent time sharing their coloring books with other local kids. The locals were delighted by the books.
“At the end of the vacation, our kids asked, ‘Is it okay if we leave our books with our new friends?’” Jamie explains proudly. “We thought that was so nice and thoughtful.”
The experience, which Jamie jokingly refers to as “accidental philanthropy,” led to a decade-long initiative that resulted in a new library for the children of the island. The family started by bringing books in their suitcases when they went to visit. Eventually, they were collecting donations from their friends, shipping 50-gallon drums full of supplies to the local school, and hiring carpenters to build shelves for all of the donated books.
“We had been longing for that kind of experience and didn’t know how to create it,” Jamie says. “That was something that helped me see how many other people in our community longed for something like that.”
Today, Jamie sees his work as providing philanthropic opportunities to people who may not realize what kinds of opportunities exist. He encourages a proactive approach to giving as opposed to one that is sparked by holidays or current events.
“The reality is that most of us grew up with reactive giving as the default,” he explains. “The whole concept of proactive and strategic giving is something that people either don’t have time to think about or have difficulty accessing.”
By allowing children to have a voice in the conversation, parents are able to gain a better understanding of what is important to their kids. Instead of imposing their own values onto their children, parents can create a thoughtful giving strategy that the entire family is excited about. “I think it’s really important for parents to help their kids figure out what they care about and relate that to their giving,” Jamie says. “Without that, it’s hard to get buy-in from everyone involved.”
Empathy As a Way of Life
Jamie hopes that his work is able to connect family members with one another as well as the world around them. “It’s an opportunity for families to learn and be inspired by each other,” he says.
At the same time, Jamie believes that instilling a sense of generosity in children from a young age is extremely important. To Jamie, the desire to give is like a “muscle” that can be nurtured. “Start early,” he says, giving advice to parents who want to raise generous kids. “Don’t make it about the money. Make it about the concept.”
Ultimately, he believes that raising kind and thoughtful individuals can produce a better society. “I spend a lot of time with my clients and their kids digging into empathy, the power of it and what it does for people collectively,” he says. “If I could aspire to be known for something, it would be using empathy to connect people.”
Jamie Forbes grew up in an old New England family imbued with a strong sense of belonging, good fortune, and a clear understanding that with privilege comes responsibility. This experience taught him the importance of family culture, tradition, mentoring, and stewardship. Philanthropy has deep roots in his family history, and yet Jamie identified early on that there was limited training around how to give, what to give, and how to evaluate the societal impact of giving. He longed for coaching and mentoring, and today he gets great satisfaction from the coaching and mentoring that comes with this work. Before Forbes Legacy Advisors, Jamie founded a management consulting group with several partners. Opus Advisors focuses on expanding the capacity of nonprofit organizations. During his tenure at Opus Advisors, Jamie launched their philanthropy advising division, serving both families and businesses to get the greatest impact from their giving. He has also coached and mentored his own children in their giving, including helping them raise funds and donate books to establish a library for an elementary school on the Caribbean Island of Dominica. Jamie is particularly passionate about helping people discover how to combine what they love and how to give. His work advising clients on their giving helped him identify an even greater need that existed: growing and nurturing their greatest assets – the individuals in the family. With best practices from his own family and others, Jamie brings his natural ability to build relationships, identify and understand culture, and plan strategically for clients. When he is not at work, Jamie can be found with his wife and two daughters or enjoying time with friends. He is an avid outdoor enthusiast, exercise nut, musician, and cancer survivor. Traveling provides an opportunity to understand other cultures, which also helps him understand people better. Jamie is a Charter Advisor of Philanthropy (CAP®), holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Connecticut College, and has also studied at The Wharton School and Babson College. Learn more about Jamie’s work at www.ForbesLegacyAdvisors.com.
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