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.

Learn about grants made by U.S.-based foundations to international recipients. This online mapping tool contains in-depth data, such as grant details and financials, allowing you to customize the information to suit your needs. The Cross-Border Giving Map is an exclusive member benefit from the Council on Foundations and the Foundation Center.

To access the Map of Cross-Border Giving:

A video series featuring leaders sharing their insights about their organizational journey to become more diverse and inclusive and lessons learned along the way. All videos are close captioned.

The following are some of the models that are used for staffing family foundations. Many families use variations on these models or a combination of them. Any of them can be effective, depending on what is important to the family. The two major considerations, and they are linked, are: how much time do family members have to give to the foundation? How much hands on development and control do family members want? In addition, the geographic location and the expertise or experience of trustees will have a bearing.

Administrator Model

A family foundation's legal responsibilities for monitoring, assessing or evaluating the grants it makes to organizations with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status are minimal. The IRS requires little in the way of detailed reporting on the outcome of specific grants-except for grants to organizations that lack 501(c)(3) status.

Stephanie Danforth Chafee’s ancestors trace their roots in Rhode Island back to the Mayflower. Her philanthropic heritage in the area is almost as deep and conservative.

Her mother was a leading supporter of the Parent Teachers Association, the Zoological Society and the Roger Williams Zoo. Her father, like his father before him, supported a hospital and large, established fine art and educational philanthropies.

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

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.

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.

Family celebrations and holidays are prime opportunities to create philanthropic traditions (and develop philanthropic values). To honor a child’s birthday you might plant a tree. For Mother’s Day, help your children do a good deed for someone else’s mother whose children can’t be with her. Family reunions, Grandparent’s Day or religious holidays can all be occasions to celebrate the spirit of giving.

Beginning the Discussion about Charitable Giving

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