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.

My wife and I met as Peace Corps volunteers in Sierra Leone in 1987. Three decades later, we were living on the East Coast, both enjoying fulfilling work in social sector careers. Last year, an unexpected opportunity arose to serve as the Walton Family Foundation’s executive director – the third in the foundation’s nearly 30-year history and the first to come from outside the family network.

As the nation approaches the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, our society remains conflicted on our ability to be united as a people. We find ourselves seeking relief from the divisiveness brought about by several events of the prior year: the civil unrest in many of our communities, the contentious rhetoric associated with the presidential campaign, and the demonstrations of intolerance against the LGBTQ and racial/ethnic communities. Many within our field are working to heal these divisions.

Monday, January 16, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day), a federal holiday in the U.S. The fact that a federal holiday was designated to commemorate the birthdate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is significant - only two other figures have national holidays in the U.S. honoring them: George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

In this Week's Edition of Snapshot...

In this Week's Edition of Snapshot...

The Council’s Public-Philanthropic Partnership Office will host a webinar for funders only with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children and Families to help foundations understand the regular programs and goals of the agency. 

View from space of sunrise over the earth

2017 will be a year of change, as orthodoxies in the field get tested and philanthropy steps up and into a more prominent national role.


In early December 2016, the Chinese government released the official and final version of their new Guidelines on Organizational Registration and Temporary Activities Reporting. These guidelines provide needed information for compliance with the 2016 Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administration of Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organizations in the Mainland of China (Overseas NGO Law).

In this week's Washington Snapshot:

  • Update on Tax Reform Progression in the Senate
  • Charitable Giving Coalition Sends Letter to President-elect Trump
  • Final Chinese Overseas NGO Law Guidelines Released
  • States Acting to Address Budget Challenges
  • Princeton Settlement Spawns Copycat Property Tax Exemption Challenge