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.

Slide presentation reviewing the basics of self-dealing for family foundations.

The services of a consultant may prove beneficial to an organization considering the creation of a records management or archival program.

Tips and ideas on file management.

This sample grant file index allows you to see the types of information which your foundation may need to keep on each of your grantees.

A program for orienting new trustees is an indispensable step for foundations to maximize the value and benefits of their boards.

By Al Castle, Executive Director Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation

Al Castle is a family trustee of the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation in Honolulu. After serving on the board for several years, he was hired as the first executive director of the foundation by his fellow board members. He also continues to serve as a trustee. In this position paper, he discusses various management options for family foundations, and specifically, the management option that was right for his own-family staffing.

The Stewardship Principles for Family Foundations are a set of governance best practices that embody how family foundations can reflect fundamental values including honesty, integrity, fairness, and trust, in their board governance, management, and grantmaking.


This customizable sample expenditure report allows you to track expenditures by grantees.

Most people do not think of their family as having a “culture.”  They associate culture with countries and ethnic groups. But the family? For most of us, it’s just a group of familiar people doing what they always do.

This sample docket allows you to customize your program goal and strategies.