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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Are you new to philanthropy and unsure about the due diligence process for making a successful grant? Have you been in the field for several years, but are still unclear on the legal aspects of grantmaking or how to spot red flags in grantee financial statements? If you answered "yes" to any of the above, please consider joining us for NCG's 2014 New Grantmakers Institute.

‘Big Data’ is a hot topic in philanthropy. But what does it actually represent, and how can foundations be most effective in using this data to help inform and advance their work? The first installment of our Leading Forward webinar series will highlight different ways foundations are using Big Data, and how Big Data is being used more broadly to provide insights into the state of the philanthropic field.

The Council on Foundations is pleased to announce the first of two webinars we will offer in preparation for the upcoming “Philanthropy Week in Washington” and “Foundations on the Hill.”

“Creating Effective Stories that Lawmakers Will Remember” will offer tips and tools for crafting an effective message to deliver to your policymakers. We’re pleased to offer this webinar in partnership with the Congressional Management Foundation, which has done extensive research on best practices for influencing lawmakers.

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 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.

This checklist was prepared by Jane Kendall, president of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and a trustee of the Kathleen Price Bryan Family Fund at the time she wrote this. These tips come from more than 1,100 nonprofit leaders in the U.S. and four other countries. They were gleaned through in-depth interviews conducted as part of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Fellowship and through 20 focus groups held during the grassroots creation of the Center for Nonprofits. The introduction is by Leslie Lilly, vice president of the Foundation for the Mid South.

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