Family Foundations

The Council on Foundations defines a family foundation as one whose funds are derived from members of a single family, though this is not a legal term and has no precise definition. The Council on Foundations suggests that family foundations have at least one family member serving as an officer or board member of the foundation and, as the donor, that individual (or a relative) must play a significant role in governing and/or managing the foundation. Most family foundations are run by family members who serve as trustees or directors on a voluntary basis. In many cases, second- and third-generation descendants of the original donors manage the foundation.

Family foundations make up over half of all private (family, corporate, independent, and operating) foundations, or 40,456 out of approximately 73,764 foundations (Foundation Center, 2011). Family foundations make up approximately one-third of the Council’s membership.

Family foundations range in asset size from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 billion. The holdings of family foundations total approximately $294 billion, or about 44 percent of all foundation holdings of $662 billion. Despite this, three out of five family foundations hold assets of less than $1 million. Family foundations gave away approximately $21.3 billion in grants in 2011 (The Foundation Center, 2011).

Below is everything on our site for family foundations. You can use the filtering options on the right to narrow these results.

In this week's Washington Snapshot:

When my colleague and fellow attorney Lara Kalwinski, Senior Counsel for Policy and Compliance and Executive Director of National Standards, and I both came to the Council on Foundations in 2013, we each had extensive experience with the Council’s books, newsletters, and other legal publications. In fact, we both relied heavily on these resources in our previous positions.

Realizing that it was time to begin updating them to incorporate changes in the law and other new information, Lara and I began to brainstorm about the best ways to deliver the information to our members.

The Council on Foundations, a member of the Global NPO Coalition on FATF, applauds the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) recent update to its counter-terrorism recommendation on NPOs, specifically grantmakers.

This member update will focus principally on important issues related to foundation financial management and endowment performance. We will look in depth at the Council's recent research on endowments and preview our upcoming Endowments and Finance Summit in New York City. We will discuss how members might better understand their own institution's financial management and investment performance in broader context.