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).

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Together, let's advance philanthropy and advance the common good!

The Council exists to expand, enhance, and sustain the work of the philanthropic field and to ensure that policymakers understand the important role that the field plays in advancing society.

As a national voice for philanthropy, the Council works to create an environment in which philanthropy can thrive by promoting policies that allow the philanthropic sector to remain vibrant, inclusive, innovative, and effective.

The Public Policy Team at the Council works in a number of ways advance philanthropy as a core value, and strengthen the sector.

Meeting with a member of Congress or with congressional staff is an effective way to convey a message about a specific issue or legislative matter. Below are some suggestions for making the most of your visit.

Plan your visit carefully

Be clear about what it is you want to achieve. Determine in advance with whom you need to meet to achieve your purpose.

Each member of Congress has staff to assist him or her during a term in office. To be most effective in communicating with Congress, it is helpful to know the titles and principal functions of key staff.

Commonly used titles and job functions:

Telephoning a Member of Congress

It's easy to contact your federal legislators by telephone. Call the capitol operator directly at 202/224-3121. Once you are connected to the capitol operator, ask for your senator or representative by name. You will then be connected directly to the member’s office.

Identify yourself as a constituent, and deliver your message. Make sure to leave your name and address to get a response.

Local Issues. Local Solutions.

Momentum is Building

Democrats and Republicans, alike, are having conversations about the need to reform the federal income tax code. The last comprehensive reform occurred nearly 30 years ago in 1986, and stakeholders in business, government, and the nonprofit sector—including the Council—have urged lawmakers to revisit certain existing provisions and consider adding new provisions.

In 2008, during the Obama Administration’s transition, Valerie Jarrett, now Senior Advisor to President Obama, was the featured speaker at a Council Policy Forum. She asked foundations to become partners in the social innovation agenda the incoming Administration was committed to incorporate into its policies and programs. The Policy Forum attendees responded positively, and in an effort to provide a coordinated response, the Council organized a formal public-philanthropic partnership initiative.

In the summer of 2012, the Disability Funders Network invited the Council to participate in a Capitol Hill forum for foundations and corporate funders with Sen.

Since 2009, Blue Shield of California Foundation has supported efforts to prevent violence in the homes of military families. Through investments in research, prevention, advocacy, and cross-sector partnerships, these efforts have already made an impact in California.