Energizing Family Philanthropy:

Coaching for purposeful engagement + Social Impact

  • Are you hoping to have a greater impact with your philanthropy?
  • Would you like to better align your giving with your values?
  • Do you want to get involved in solving a problem in the community or the world, but are not quite sure where to start?

Amy Holdsman created Essential Leadership to coach and inspire individuals and families through both an inward examination of their values, strengths, and motivations, and an outward exploration of the community and the world at large. She has the experience and knowledge to help her clients identify where and how they can have the most impact and develop a plan of action for purposeful engagement and meaningful giving. She guides people to authentically lead and enhance their connections to self, family, and community .

Hear Amy speak about the philosophy behind Essential Leadership on the latest Philadelphia Community Podcast with Loraine Ballard Morrill:

About Amy


Amy Holdsman

President and CEO, Essential Leadership, LLC

  • 25 years executive leadership experience in the philanthropic landscape in Greater Philadelphia
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF)
  • Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®) with The American College of Financial Services 
  • 21/64 Advisor in Multigenerational Philanthropy
  • Certification in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) with The Flourishing Center
  • Wharton lecturer, Business Communication for Impact, Management and Communication Program
  • Served as the Executive Director and trusted advisor for family foundation giving out over $13 million annually in grants; built scholarship program for more than 1000 middle school, high school and college students providing them with opportunities for a higher quality educational experience
  • Served as chief executive for leading educational non-profit organization for more than a decade, and helped its services evolve to be more relevant, impactful, and life changing
  • Executed board matching service for hundreds of executives in search of meaningful community engagement, making use of their time, talent, treasure and ties

Learn more about Amy »

learn how amy can help discover your voice, vision, and values


Customized process

Amy guides individuals and families to align their charitable investments and community work with their voice, vision, and values to make an impact now and into the future. The process is custom tailored to each client to answer four key questions:

What's important to me?

Usually, we begin by looking inward, clarifying what matters most to you and identifying the values that drive your purpose and meaning in community involvement.


What are my strengths?

We will use inventory assessments to determine your strengths and also seek areas to develop for increased effectiveness.

Where do I want to make an impact?

Then we look outward, exploring the landscape of local, national, or global issues and how they might be addressed, and identifying potential causes and organizations that are making a difference and needing your involvement.

How do I engage?

Having answered these three questions, we develop and start you on a plan for purposeful engagement, meaningful service, and fulfilling philanthropy.

The process begins with a conversation


Clients include

  • First generation philanthropists who have an interest in educating themselves and the next generation about high impact philanthropy
  • Next Gen donors who want to preserve legacy as well as blaze their own trail and engage in order to have maximum impact with their lives, in the community and in the world at large
  • Multigenerational families starting or ramping up their family philanthropy with a desire to include and/or transition philanthropic activities and engagement to the next generation
  • Millennial earners who want a hands on approach to making a social impact with their time, talent, treasure and ties; and who are driven by the greater good
  • Individuals who are in search of a pathway to purpose and meaning via connecting to a cause and/or an organization in the community

What clients are saying about Essential Leadership

“I found Amy at a time when I was trying to figure out how to become more effective with the causes that mattered most to me. Amy helped me gain clarity about my personal strengths and attributes to contribute to my fullest. Her guidance helped me to pare back some lower priority commitments, rid some self-doubt and noise, and step into greater leadership roles with the organizations that truly speak to my heart. I would recommend Amy’s unique coaching approach to people who deep down know that they can and must pursue positive change in this troubled world. I now live a life where I know I make a positive impact. I can never thank her enough.”

— Laurie Franz
President, Five Together Foundation
; Board Chair, Agahozo Shalom Youth Village; Member, Boards of Directors for JEVS Human Services, Interfaith Family, Refuge Point

“I was at a critical point in my life and I was in search of meaningful engagement. I had been approached by multiple people and nonprofit organizations seeking my time and financial resources. I first needed to clarify what mattered most to me. I needed to clear my plate of the obligations no longer of real priority, and immerse more deeply in the causes that truly inspired me. Amy was a competent guide and friend during this process. Her knowledge of the philanthropic landscape as well as her insight and compassion for the process of self-discovery and community engagement were unique and incredibly valuable. As a result, I have stepped more fully into my power as an effective leader.”

— Donna Brooks, Board Member, Minding Your Mind

“I have had the privilege of working with Amy for the past five years, during which time she has been an effective and loyal colleague in helping to build and execute my vision for philanthropy. This vision represents the values and legacy of my life, which Amy intuitively understands and embraces.”

— James J. Maguire, 
Founder and Chairman, Maguire Foundation

“As a younger professional looking to align my values and strengths with my personal and professional goals, Amy has provided me with the trusted space to explore and discover some of the most meaningful parts of me. Through her unique ability to unbiasedly listen, and quickly assess the situation, Amy has offered concrete tools to stretch me and ultimately implement into my daily life. I now have a better understanding of my career trajectory, am living a more balanced life, and am taking active steps to reach my goals. I am grateful for her guidance and would highly recommend her services.”

-Diana Venezia, Manager of Fund Development and Operations, Philadelphia Youth Basketball


“I really enjoyed and benefitted from working with Amy. Amy struck a nice balance between providing me with some structured content related to values clarification and having me set the agenda and direction. She really wanted to make this personal to me so it would be meaningful and relevant, and that worked. We also worked on  practical things like reviewing my resume, connecting me to people and professionals in the industry, and providing me with resources that were all very helpful and serve as building blocks for moving forward. 

Her unwavering attitude and messages that convey I can do this — make a change and thrive in this next phase of my life — was very helpful. Making a change after so many years in an institution that is so important to me personally and professionally is a big deal and frankly, scary. Her belief and messages that I can make this transition and be successful meant a lot. 

Herr newsletters are thoughtful, clear, and full of useful information. They are also enjoyable to read!”

-Anonymous and in career transition

develop your own plan for purposeful engagement and meaningful giving