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.

Many foundations may be uncertain about what’s involved when it comes to succession planning. Some wonder why they should worry about the future at all when they have so much work to do in managing their grantmaking, community leadership and development, and administrative duties.

Succession planning is more than just replacing a CEO. It’s an opportunity to evaluate what works at your foundation—and identify areas in which you can improve. It can give both the board and staff a clear picture of long-term goals, and help you set priorities and make decisions.

A collection of all impact investing publications from Mercer.

From Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, this handbook on responsible investing provides the blueprint for foundation asset managers interested in multiplying their organization’s impact on society through options that link mission with investments that create long-term value to society.

Prepared by the Southern New Hampshire University's School of Community Economic Development and available through Mission Investors Exchange, this case study explores the details of the F.B. Heron Foundation's rationale, exploration, and implementation of its mission-related investment strategy, and reviews tools (including PRIs), specific investments, interim outcomes, and lessons learned. The case study provides a walk-through of how Heron applies its Mission-related Investment Continuum to its portfolio.

By FSG Social Impact Advisors, this report provides the first comprehensive analysis of mission investing by U.S. foundations and analyzes the activity of 92 U.S. foundations, which have made a combined total of $2.3 billion of mission investments.

From the New Economics Foundation, Mission Possible considers how foundations might more effectively use a proportion of their endowment in support of the change they set out to create – their mission. Starting from the premise that paths are made by walking, it explores the potential of ‘mission-connected investment’ or MCI – defined as investment which promises a market return but also helps to achieve mission.

From Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, this publication that can inform decisionmakers in philanthropy about how to move forward and implement an agenda for impact investing in their institutions.

As different as foundations can be from one another, they all share the need to know what works and, especially, what works well. The more foundations can show how their grants are making a difference, the more value they can bring to their communities.

To know what works, foundations must evaluate their grants. Evaluation has many benefits. It helps the foundation assess the quality or impact of funded programs, plan and implement new programs, make future grant decisions, and demonstrate accountability to the public trust.

Social media is an increasingly prevalent part of our world. Whether it’s on the news, sitting in traffic, or talking with colleagues, you’ll be hard-pressed to avoid mention of Facebook or Twitter. Is there a good way for your foundation to become involved?

Question: Our foundation has been funding a local nonprofit for the last ten years. The nonprofit has one full-time employee and an annual operating budget of about $300,000. The nonprofit recently requested a $50,000 grant for operating expenditures or it will have to close down immediately. Even if we make the grant, they may only operate for another month or so. If the foundation makes the grant but the nonprofit dissolves anyway and $20,000 of the grant remains unspent, what happens to that money? Can we fund them?

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