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).

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This board briefing will help your board consider three main questions: what are the advantages and limitations of CEOs on boards? If the CEO is on the board, should he or she have full voting rights? How do your colleagues approach this decision?

Includes job descriptions for President/Chair of the Board, Vice President of the Board, Secretary of the Board, and Treasurer of the Board.

This article will help your board consider three main questions:

  • What are the advantages and limitations of large versus small boards?
  • What size will help us best accomplish our mission?
  • How do our colleagues approach this question?

Although board size varies significantly among different foundation types, this article speaks general-ly to all foundation boards—community, family, independent, public and corporate.

Family foundations grapple with many questions when determining who will serve on the board. For example, who is eligible for board service? The easy answer for many foundations is family members, but how do you define family member? This document highlights some factors that families might consider when determining who serves on the board.

This guide is designed to help foundations consider how more diverse and inclusive practices might advance their mission by making their work more effective and more reflective of communities served. By highlighting 10 ways family foundations can approach diversity, this guide seeks to spark ideas and launch further dialogue.

Sample form that might be used by the Board to evaluate the Chief Executive. This sample should be customized to the particular culture and purpose of the agency by modifying the performance criteria as appropriate for the organization, inserting those criteria, and conducting the evaluation using the updated criteria.

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