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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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.
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.