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.

From the Family Foundation Advisor, this article reviews the sunset-vs.-perpetuity issue and considers the potential benefits of a sunset date, with the special considerations of small family foundations in mind.

The role of the foundation CEO is pivotal to the success of a foundation’s goals. Even at foundations without a staff, the tasks of the CEO do not disappear, but rather are carried out by board members. In this publication, we explore some of the critical issues and challenges foundation CEOs face in their daily work.

While philanthropy that crosses national borders has much in common with its domestic counterpart, it also differs in significant and challenging ways. Language differences, communication across vast distances, unfamiliar cultural values and perspectives, multiple legal systems, and disparate accounting practices are a few of the factors that distinguish international from local or national philanthropy and contribute to its complexity.

This monograph features foundation CEO and trustee reflections on the impact of a broad array of diversity and inclusiveness efforts. They address many of the issues foundation leaders face every day including how to ensure that your grant resources have the most impact possible. The authors have identified diversity and inclusion as important tools in advancing their organizational missions and program goals. Their strategies range from institutional issues such as board development and staffing to community outreach and redefining grantmaking success.

“Lessons from the Field” features the stories, successes and experiences of CEOs and trustees of some of our nation’s leading foundations and corporate grantmaking programs, both large and small. Each has shared their unique perspectives—their struggles and strategies to overcome challenges. They have provided insight into how and to what effect diversity and inclusive practices have been embedded within their organizations.

This document attempts to codify the job functions of private foundation CEOs and the skills and knowledge needed to perform these functions, referred to as competencies.

As family members come together in their collective role as trustees of the family foundation, they must grapple with many issues. Along with their grantmaking responsibilities, they set policies for governance and management and oversee the investment of the foundation’s assets. Unlike officers of other types of foundations, trustees make decisions that affect both the organization and the family. That awareness often complicates and confuses issues as trustees struggle with the question of whether loyalty is owed first to the family or to the foundation.

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