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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Grantmakers should be advised that Hurricane Sandy is a “qualified disaster” for federal tax purposes. Under IRS rules, this means that employers may more easily assist employees affected by the disaster. Employers and their related foundations may make payments for reasonable and necessary personal, family, living, or funeral expenses, and reasonable and necessary expenses incurred for the repair or rehabilitation of a personal residence or its contents. Such payments will not be treated as taxable income to the affected employees.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) permitted individuals to roll over up to $100,000 from an individual retirement account (IRA) directly to a qualifying charity without recognizing the assets transferred to the qualifying charity as income. While this initial provision expired on December 31, 2007, it has been extended several times. On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8) into law, extending the provision until December 31, 2013.

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