For Shawn and Robbie Ellsworth, philanthropy has always been about collaboration.

For years, three generations– the couple, their children and Robbie’s mother — held family meetings to discuss their charitable giving through the family foundation named after Robbie’s mother, Martha L.A. Norris.

Now that they have rolled that private foundation into a Donor Advised Fund at the Princeton Area Community Foundation (where they already had another fund, the Rosso-Maguire Fund, named in honor of Shawn’s cousins) their collaboration has expanded.

Their association with the Community Foundation gives them a chance to learn much more about the needs of the community and the nonprofits serving the region, as well as the ability to chat with other fundholders about their charitable goals and initiatives. As the Princeton couple gains a deeper understanding about poverty in this region, they believe it will take partnerships to make a significant impact.

“We learned it’s going to take a collaboration of fundholders like ourselves and the Community Foundation making grants and others piggybacking on that to make a difference,” said Shawn, a Community Foundation Trustee.

Fostering a sense of philanthropy in their children motivated the Ellsworths to create Donor Advised Funds at the Princeton Area Community Foundation.

They opened the Rosso-Maguire Fund in 2004. In 2016, they converted the family foundation to another Donor Advised Fund.

That conversion allows their grants to be more private and eliminated paperwork burdens, yet continues to accomplish the same philanthropic goals, they said. And unlike a private foundation, whose operation requires payments to a host of professional advisors, Donor Advised Fund fees benefit the entire community.

Shawn said setting up the Donor Advised Funds was easy, and making multi-year grants can be accomplished with a simple phone call. The Community Foundation also makes it easy for the couple to have discussions with other fundholders about what they are trying to accomplish with their giving.

“As much as I know about philanthropy, we’re still learning more and more. The learning curve is still really high,” said Shawn.

Establishing funds at the Community Foundation has helped the Ellsworths focus their philanthropy and learn more about poverty in this region.

“Our association with the Community Foundation made it much more apparent to us,” Robbie said of the prevalence of poverty in Mercer County. “It’s driven it home.”

Through the Community Foundation, families also gain a philanthropic support system for younger family members. Their children – John Griffith and Alyssa – are now grown, and they will eventually become the next generation of fund advisors.

“It’s all set up, which makes us feel really good about the continuation of our fund,” said Robbie. “I think we’ve pretty much instilled those philanthropic desires and wishes in our kids, which makes me happy.”