Philanthropy is a Family Affair

The Dietz family: Charlie, Meg, Brian, Mimi and WillA couple of times a year some very special people are guided into the conference room at the Maine Community Foundation’s Portland office. Charles and William Dietz settle into their chairs and begin to review a set of grant applications. Never mind that Charlie is 13 years old and Will is 11, the Dietz boys take the process as seriously as any donor preparing to make distributions from a fund.

Of course, parents Meg and Brian Dietz have done some background preparation, establishing the budget and narrowing the possibilities. And then the children take it from there. “They get to direct the money where they feel it will be important,” says Meg.

Certain organizations get the nod each giving cycle. All involve children. A perennial favorite is the Creek to College program run by the Long Creek Youth Development Center. The boys also want to promote diversity, especially in schools. “They’re pretty aware,” says Meg. “It’s fun to be able to share our sense of values with our kids,” Brian adds, “and do it in a way that means that they’re taking a real role.” There’s a third child, Mimi, but she’s too young yet to take part in the family grantmaking.

Meg’s parents were first generation Irish, intent on making it in America. They taught their four kids that if you had family, the chance at a good education, and the opportunity to work hard, you had it all. Growing up in the same small town her mother had, Meg learned that community involvement was an important part of a successful life, whether it was cleaning up a river or checking on an elderly neighbor. Although they didn’t have a lot of money, her parents stressed the importance of “sharing the wealth” of opportunity they felt they had been given.

For his part, Brian knows the importance of family through loss. His mother died early -- the Ann Schroth Dietz Fund managed by the Maine Community Foundation is named for her, and it is her estate that forms the bulk of its funds. Even before that, Brian’s parents had divorced.

Beginning his career as an editor in the New Haven area, Brian later opened a bookstore in the Old Port section of Portland. As he and Meg were starting a family, he decided to go into financial planning, ultimately launching the partnership, Portland Financial Planning Group. It was this work that drew him to the Maine Community Foundation. Brian knew that a donor-advised fund would be the best vehicle to assist the family in choosing their giving options.

Meg, a nurse by training, is grateful for the foundation’s ability to help them understand what the needs are in the state, and to find such institutions as Opportunity Farm in New Gloucester, which takes in children from troubled homes, ensuring that they get through high school while continuing to work with the family.

For the Dietzes, whose abiding concerns with family begins with their own, Opportunity Farm is a perfect fit for their philanthropy. At the same time, Meg and Brian are delighted that through the Ann Schroth Dietz Fund at the Maine Community Foundation, their children can gain the tools, along with some direction, to go beyond being thankful for what they have -- to actually reach out and help others.