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.

This article will help your board consider three main questions:

  • What are the advantages and limitations of large versus small boards?
  • What size will help us best accomplish our mission?
  • How do our colleagues approach this question?

Although board size varies significantly among different foundation types, this article speaks general-ly to all foundation boards—community, family, independent, public and corporate.

Introduction
Should your foundation board members be compensated for service, or should they serve in a voluntary capacity? Whether you are considering this issue for the first time, or whether it’s a question that has arisen before, compensation has become more than an internal management question. It has become part of keeping the public trust. 

From PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, these publications and resources cover issues surrounding investments other than stocks, bonds and cash.

A mission statement gives all who are interested an idea of why the foundation was established and how it defines its own work. The statement is usually broad, worded to reflect the donor’s intent and give a flavor of the foundation’s values and interests. For family foundation trustees, developing a mission statement is a means of honoring donor intent and giving an identity, set in the context of family and the outside world, to the foundation.

Developing Mission Statements

Most families and foundation leaders are uncertain about what is involved in continuity planning. You may have some of these common questions; here are some answers and explanations.

Why worry about continuity? We’ve got plenty of work to do just managing our grantmaking?

Family foundations grapple with many questions when determining who will serve on the board. For example, who is eligible for board service? The easy answer for many foundations is family members, but how do you define family member? This document highlights some factors that families might consider when determining who serves on the board.

As the need for scarce grant dollars grows more intense, so does the need to make certain those dollars are spent as effectively as possible. Hence the question of how to evaluate the consequences of grant supported activities has risen to the forefront.

First Steps

This guide is designed to help foundations consider how more diverse and inclusive practices might advance their mission by making their work more effective and more reflective of communities served. By highlighting 10 ways family foundations can approach diversity, this guide seeks to spark ideas and launch further dialogue.

Foundation recordkeeping is an inherently dull topic—unless it’s done wrong. The foundation manager who has not kept adequate documentation regarding expenditure responsibility grants will surely find an IRS audit more exciting than he might like. Similarly, a foundation manager confronted with a trustee succession battle will find the situation even more nerve-racking if she cannot put her hands on copies of the minutes of the meeting held years ago at which the succession issue was addressed and resolved.

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