For lifelong philanthropists Jane and Tom Fetter, family and philanthropy go hand in hand.
“Some of my earliest childhood memories are from helping my mother while she volunteered throughout the community,” shared Jane, who recalls carrying flowers as a young girl to help out her mother with the Las Patronas Jewel Ball.
Tom echoed similar memories, noting that while his father didn’t have much in the way of monetary wealth to donate, he did give his time and talent to the San Diego Zoo, beginning as a volunteer and ending as a trustee and Chairman of the Board. His mother was active with the Children’s Home Society and the symphony.
“Giving back to the community was something both our families valued deeply,” explained Tom. “In many ways, it was just part of everyday life.”
That’s why it comes as no surprise to learn that after the two high-school sweethearts married and had children of their own, they continued to pass on those values of compassion, kindness and charity.
Jane, a self-described “career volunteer,” has given enough of her time and talent to fill two or three careers. Among her long list of proud moments, Jane founded the Crew Classic Brunch, created and chaired the current format for the RITZ (Rendezvous In The Zoo), was active with the Junior League of San Diego becoming President, and chaired The San Diego Foundation’s 30th Anniversary Celebration.
And that’s just a fraction of Jane’s volunteerism. Her impact in the community can be felt across dozens of nonprofit organizations, many of which are connected through the activities and passions of her children when they were younger.
Similarly, Tom has spent decades giving back to organizations and causes in San Diego. “I’m a firm believer in the value of giving your time and talent,” noted Tom, who has dedicated countless hours and funds to organizations such as the Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego History Center, on each of which he also served as Trustee and Chairman.
Tom shared, “Early on in my career, I was focused entirely on building my businesses, which meant I didn’t have as much time to be involved.” Now, as a successful entrepreneur, he and Jane have been afforded the opportunity to focus more on giving back. And the couple began thinking of new and creative ways to engage the next generation of family members.
“Philanthropy has always been an important part of our lives, and it’s the same for our children and grandchildren,” Jane explained. “A passion for giving is something we all have in common.”
As their grandchildren have grown older, each is beginning to take an interest in her or his own community causes. Their oldest, Holly, believes strongly in social justice and racial equity initiatives, while their youngest, Helen, is passionate about helping falsely incarcerated individuals. Their second-oldest, Marly, became so concerned about the environment that she just finished a master’s program in Sustainable Management.
And while the younger Fetters all volunteer their time and give what they can to nonprofit organizations in their communities, most do not yet have the resources to make a significant financial impact.
Fetter Family Descendants Fund
“We were inspired that they were so cause-and charity-minded,” explained Tom. “We wanted them to stay as connected as possible so that’s why we decided to use our charitable resources to make it possible for them to make financial gifts.”
Building on their family’s rich history of volunteerism and philanthropy, Jane and Tom established the Fetter Family Descendants Fund at The San Diego Foundation.
The fund gives their seven grandchildren, ranging in ages from 19 to 30, the opportunity to work together and the support nonprofits they choose.
“Watching our grandchildren grow up and pursue their charitable passions has been an absolute joy,” shared Jane. “Now that they are all adults and beginning to build their own charitable legacies, we hope this fund creates new opportunities for them to engage with the community, both together as a group and in their own individual lives.”
Working with The San Diego Foundation, Jane and Tom created a structure for the fund so that each year a different grandchild will serve as the Chair and will be responsible for coordinating among the cousins. All decisions and actions will be driven solely by the grandchildren and The San Diego Foundation Giving Team will manage the administrative backend process so that the grandchildren can focus on the joy of giving together.
“As soon as we told them about the fund, they were thrilled,” noted Jane. “Almost immediately, they started exchanging messages and scheduled a virtual Zoom meeting to start talking about the causes about which they cared and how they could help.”
The Fetter Family Descendants Fund is a perfect example of how multi-generational philanthropy can help deepen a family’s bond and help create even greater impact in the community.