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A Winning Strategy

The Jenkins family approaches giving with a history and a heart for giving

(Aug. 1, 2022) Though they come to philanthropy through different paths, Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins and his wife, Chantall, are aligned in their commitment to their new community. They are both interested in being hands-on donors, giving not only financially but also with their time. It’s a dedication born of family legacies of service and personal passions.

When the couple opened a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation in 2020, Taylor was already familiar with the potential of strategic fund investment and grantmaking. His grandfather, Texas businessman Edward Vetter, established the Vetter Foundation in the 1950s in Taylor’s hometown of Dallas, Texas. Decision making about grants evolved to include Taylor’s mother and aunts, and eventually himself. “I wasn’t always sitting formally at the table, but I heard the discussions,” Taylor said. “Education was a big passion of our family, and that came from my granddad. How do I carry on the legacy that my grandfather built, and my mom and aunts continued, not just through monetary contributions but by time spent?”

Chantall was likewise influenced by the example of her family. Having grown up with an active duty Army father, she said, “My dad did a lot of giving back to the community on a smaller scale, not a foundation-type thing. My family was always supportive of ways to help the military community. I want to dive into the need in this area’s military community. They’re an undervalued group of people that you don’t often hear a lot about.”

Both Taylor and Chantall are quick to list areas of philanthropic interest that stem from issues that have touched them personally: from children and youth, single mothers, and the military to heart health, suicide prevention, and the Latinx community. And each point to the priority area of education, in which they’ve already made an impact locally. Through the Coach Jenkins Assists for Education Program, Taylor and Chantall personally support public schools throughout the community with a contribution of $10 for every assist from the Grizzlies’ season—donating more than $65,000 in just three years.

“Education is just the initial beacon. There’s more we want to do to connect with Memphis and how we can serve the greatest needs,” Taylor said. The family relies on the tools and resources of the Community Foundation to put their values and giving spirit into action. The couple joined GiVE 365, the foundation’s dollar-a-day giving circle. Chantall is enthusiastic about the LIVEGIVEmidsouth community information system, with a comprehensive directory of 480 area nonprofits, and its potential to introduce them to organizations of all sizes. And, like all fund holders, they can take advantage of the customized philanthropic advisory services the Donor Services & Development team offers.

As COVID restrictions lift, the Jenkins family is excited to continue to explore and give back to Memphis. Having lived in San Antonio, Atlanta, and Milwaukee during his NBA career, he said, “This city is a lot different. There is a stronger connection between citizens and investment to make the place better, brighter, and happier. There’s a different rallying cry. This place is unique and is built from within.

“We see our philanthropic endeavors as a way to get tied to the community even deeper. This is about all people being connected, encouraged, and excited. There’s so much life force, passion, and joy here. I get to be a recipient of that, and I want our family tied even more into this unbelievable community.”

Passing on family values of compassion and service play a critical role in the couple’s philanthropy. They are parents to two sons in their 20s, Alex and JC, as well as two younger children, Austin and Avery. “It’s the Jenkins Family Fund for a reason,” said Taylor. “How can we get our kids to volunteer? Through our blessings, how can we do more? I go back to being younger and how I could see the examples of my own family making an impact. Giving makes you want to do it more.”

Excerpted from the 2022 Community Foundation Annual Report