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Lawrence Welk Family Giving Starts at Age 12

February 3, 2011

Managing a family office or philanthropic foundation can be difficult, so it helps to get training at an early age, and among the descendants of the late bandleader Lawrence Welk, that education starts before they can even legally buy champagne.

Charles W. Collier, a senior philanthropic advisor at Harvard University, told a conference on family offices on Thursday that he recently met with Welk’s daughter and granddaughter to talk about how they set up the board for their family foundation. The bandleader who was known as the maestro of champagne music passed away in 1992, but his descendants have been overseeing his foundation in the years since. Apparently, one of their beneficiaries is Harvard. To help educate the Welk family on how to disburse the longtime TV host’s earnings, the foundation has a junior board consisting of younger members of the family who are not old enough to hold seats on the official board.

“Many families and foundations do have junior boards as a way to prepare them for when they get out of college,” said Collier at the conference, which was sponsored by the New York State Society of CPAs Foundation for Accounting Education and took place at the offices of Bernstein Global Wealth Management. “They do their own learning and giving, and in some cases it’s 18 to 21, and then they can get on the board after 21 or after 25. Last week, in New York, I was with Lawrence Welk’s daughter, who is in her 70s, and I met her daughter, the third generation, and I said, ‘What do you do about a junior board?’ And she said, ‘Oh, we have one.’ And I said, ‘Oh, how old do you have to be?’ She said, ‘I did it well because, for me, for my family, you got on the junior board at age 12.’ So, there’s no right or wrong way to do this, but I think that’s a good example.”

For even younger members of the Welk family, one imagines they must have bubble machines they can practice with as they hone their skills at philanthropy and band conducting. As the maestro himself used to say, "Wunnerful, wunnerful. Uh one and uh two..."

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