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.

by Robin Schein

In February, the Council on Foundations will bring together families from all over the country (and world!) to learn about and discuss the current issues affecting families who give. The 2012 Family Philanthropy Conference is not just for family foundations-it's for all families committed to philanthropy.

by Nelli Garton

I know I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the state of the world and the incredible needs that philanthropy is trying to address. We can't fulfill these on our own, so where do we start? Are we just providing short-term solutions when the whole system is breaking down? Grant requests are up, the needs in society are more acute, and governmental contributions at all levels are plummeting. There is intense frustration with the status quo from Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party.

by Suzanne Skees

The world reverberates with crashing economies and toppling dictatorships from Detroit to Italy, Egypt to Syria; and one vital outcome of these changes is this: Everyday people know more about one another, feel connected through communication, and take action in the collective. The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street have demonstrated that we–as a global citizenry–stand up for what we believe.

And even now, amid times of political turmoil and economic hardship, we're giving more money and time to our causes than ever before. Why?

by Jillian C. Vukusich

I love the theme of the Family Philanthropy Conference (kudos to whoever came up with it). As we all know, philanthropy changes its mantra every so often. We’ve heard collaboration and partnership and community building. “Fusion” would be a great next trend.

by Mary Galeti

By: Dan Hymowitz and Heather Lord
In America, the debate lumbers on about the best way to coordinate the philanthropic sector and the U.S. government. Meanwhile, one post-conflict West African country has jumped right in — the Liberia Philanthropy Secretariat is the fruit of collaboration between President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and private foundations. It is the world's only national government office dedicated to engaging private philanthropy.

by Martin Davis, Jr. and Bob Weiss
Foundation News and Commentary

Excerpt from


The mission of the Warner Foundation is to make long-term improvements in economic opportunities for disadvantaged individuals and communities and long-term improvements in race relations in North Carolina.

Statement of Values

by Lee Draper

Every year, scores of individuals are recruited to join the program staff of foundations. As program officers or directors, they allocate billions of dollars to the nonprofit organizations doing work in our communities and abroad.


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