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.

Foundations often play an essential role in disaster relief and recovery. Not only do foundations provide grants and help raise money, they also use their experience and expertise to help civic leaders and responders distribute aid and rebuild communities.

Our disaster grantmaking resource page provides a primer on disaster philanthropy and access to an array of resources from Council members and peer organizations to assist in the three phases of disaster response and recovery:

With the Obama Administration's promise to end the wars in the Middle East by 2014, close to 1.5 million veterans are returning in a compressed timeframe and are likely to overwhelm the government's ability to serve them adequately. We have consistently heard concerns from federal officials about the service provision capacity needed in communities as young veterans increasingly seek services from community providers and not from the federal government.

U.S. private foundations are increasingly involved in international grantmaking. One way for a private foundation to give overseas is to make grants directly to foreign charities. Many U.S. private foundations, however, may want to consider giving overseas indirectly through a "Friends of" organization.

The Council on Foundations defines “international grantmaking” to include grants made by U.S. foundations and corporations to overseas recipients as well as grants made to U.S.-based organizations operating international programs. This includes grants made toward activities wholly within the Unites States that have significant international purpose and impact.

U.S. foundations and corporations interested in international grantmaking have several options:

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) has introduced filing requirements for split-interest trusts such as charitable remainder trusts and pooled income funds.

Which returns are affected?

These requirements apply to returns for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2006.

Under the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), the rules for public disclosure of the Form 990-T by public charities and private foundations became identical to those for Form 990.

Which forms are affected?

Any Form 990-T filed after August 17, 2006.

The Pension Protection Act (PPA) was signed into law by President Bush on August 17, 2006. The PPA was designed to improve pension plan funding requirements of employers, as well as 401(k), IRA and other retirement plans. The PPA also included numerous provisions that affect charitable giving.

Lawyers rarely tell foundation managers, "Relax, don’t worry so much!" But in the case of "tipping," that’s been our advice for more than 10 years. What is the so-called "tipping problem" and why are so many foundations (still) so worried about it?  

Good relationships between grantmakers and grantees promote more effective philanthropy. But there's nothing that can mess up a good partnership faster than an overzealous lawyer. In seeking to protect their foundation clients, lawyers can sometimes impose excessive requirements on grantees, forcing them to spend unnecessary time and money. While grantmakers should always pay attention to their lawyers' advice, here are some legal recommendations you might want to question.

Requiring grantees to "re-certify" tax-exempt status

After September 11, 2001, many grantmakers and other charitable organizations that were not previously familiar with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), learned of its existence. As one of the key U.S. government agencies seeking to shut down terrorism funding around the world, OFAC has focused attention on charities as one mechanism for providing financial support to terrorists. As a result, grantmakers and others have dedicated more time and effort to OFAC compliance.

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