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.

Ron Clark has 55 rules for the kids that he teaches at his school in south Atlanta each day. These rules cover everything from how to enter a room with poise to bringing a water bottle to class to how to be a graceful winner.

You may not know him, but hundreds of family foundation representatives who are gathered in Miami Beach for their annual conference hosted by the Council on Foundations now do. And they are impressed.

The first day of the Council on Foundations Family Philanthropy Conference is now officially in the books and one word seems to arise again and again in conversations and sessions: transparency. Nowhere was this topic more front and center than at the Council-sponsored session about social media. But allow me to digress for a moment and first set the scene for those not in attendance.

Miami is wonderful. It’s also where the 2012 COF Family Philanthropy Conference is happening. Although we are only one day in, I can safely say that traveling from California was well worth it.

The setting is gorgeous of course, and I’ve been posting images of the harbor, the art deco buildings on my personal Facebook profile. But in the end I’m here for the inspiring sessions and the wonderful collegiality I always find among fellow grantmakers.

“…outside resources will be much more effectively used if the local community is itself fully mobilized and invested, and if it can define the agendas for which additional resources must be obtained.”
-”Building Communities from the Inside Out,” John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight, 1993.

In the process of preparing for the Council Learning Lab on social media at the Family Philanthropy Conference, I came across some pretty interesting data: 14 percent of dog owners have created a Facebook account for their pet!  And 15 percent of these dogs have more than 100 friends - it gives a whole new meaning to man’s best friend.  This is pretty impressive given that the average human Facebook user has 245 friends.

If you’ve ever come to one of the Council’s wonderful conferences, you already know that connections happen in the elevators and spaces around the panels. It’s easy to get lost in the well-crafted, engaging panels and formalities of a conference, but real connections are made when there is space to breathe and let the ideas settle. That’s where we realize the ideas, passions, and intentions we are all here to share.

Coming into the Council’s Family Philanthropy Conference, I’m looking to follow two strains of curiosity. First, I want to see how other foundations have built collaborative community relationships that expand beyond traditional roles of grantor and grantees. More deeply, I’m curious about how foundations can maintain focus on a certain community as the board transitions to subsequent generations.

I’m always excited for the Family Philanthropy Conference. The plenaries feature dynamic speakers who often offer a philanthropic perspective that I hadn’t considered before. There are so many interesting sessions, and so many interesting ideas to take in. I try to attend a session about something I’d likely not be able to explore any place else. Sometimes it’s a speaker I’ve never heard. Sometimes it’s a story I’ve never connected to. Sometimes it’s on a subject matter I know nothing about.

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords from Arizona and Louis D. Brown, a young African-American man growing up in Dorchester, Mass., were both shot. Gifford’s shooter was white, mentally ill and “acted alone.” Louis’ killer was young, black, and possibly involved with a gang.

Most family foundations tend to conduct their grantmaking by continuing the discussion until everyone either agrees or at least agrees to commit to a decision. This approach can be time consuming, but rewarding.  What happens, though, when you can’t all agree? What do you do when one director is passionately in support of and another is vehemently against a grant decision?

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