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.

I had the pleasure of spending the past four days in Miami Beach at the Council on Foundations’ annual Family Philanthropy Conference.

There was alot to experience there, but I’d have to say that — as usual at these kind of gatherings — the highlight was spending time with my fellow attendees. 

I used to question the value of conferences. They are expensive when you add up the flights, hotels, meals – Isn’t that money better spent on programmatic work that directly serves our grantees? As foundations we rightly and continually scrutinize our administrative expenses. We owe that to our donors and grantees.

One of the biggest topics in family philanthropy has to do with engaging the next generation. How do multi-generational family foundations find common ground amongst board members with very different worldviews and experiences? How do foundations ensure that the next generation becomes responsible stewards of their philanthropic assets? How does one generation pass along their values about effective grantmaking, while allowing their kids and grandkids to discover their own philanthropic voice?

In the last 24 hours, participants at the Family Philanthropy Conference were treated to a trifecta of inspiration.  Last night, a flamenco dancer romanced us, young classical musicians made our spirit soar, and an artist schooled in the traditions of Theater of the Oppressed moved some us to tears.

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.

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