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.

This report offers the most comprehensive information available on staff composition and compensation for U.S. foundations. It contains salaries for 35 full-time positions; allows grantmakers to benchmark compensation against their peers by foundation type, asset size, and region; and offers extensive information on benefits policies and practices. Council members can access the report for FREE!

Read Vikki Spruill's Commentary on the Findings.

The Council's Board of Directors released this guidance memorandum in March 2010 and strongly recommends that when reviewing and approving foundation investment policies and procedures practices, all foundations—private and public-consider these best practices in foundation investment management.

The 2014 Board Compensation Tables provide foundations with tools to benchmark their board compensation practices against peers in the field. Containing data collected through the Council’s 2014 Grantmakers Salary and Benefits survey, this report offers detailed breakdowns of the data by foundation type and asset size. 

The 2014 Salary Tables provide aggregate information on staff salaries among U.S. foundations and corporate giving programs. The tables compile data on nearly 9,500 full-time employees from across the country, and include information by type of foundation and region. Mean, median, range, 25th, and 75th percentiles are provided.

The Council on Foundations, in collaboration with BoardSource, is proud to announce the publication of an easy-to-use guide for new foundation board members. This publication is designed as a basic guide for new foundation board members, providing an introduction to tools and knowledge essential in your first years of service on the board of a foundation.

Private foundations and public charities, including community foundations, may meet with legislators and legislative staff, but must use caution when considering topics to discuss with legislators. This document contains some general guidelines to consider prior to visiting with legislators.

The 2013 Grantmakers Salary Tables provide aggregate information on U.S. foundation and corporate giving program staff salaries and benefits. Free to participants and Council members and $159 for nonmembers, the tables compile data on more than 8,000 full-time employees from across the country. Mean, median, range, 25th, and 75th percentiles are provided.

The persistent scrutiny of nonprofit governance has prompted leaders at many types of organizations to take steps to assure that their own houses are in good legal and financial order. For private foundations, this checklist is a good place to start.