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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Thriving Philanthropy Makes Thriving Communities

There are several proposals being considered in Congress that have significant implications for philanthropy and its effectiveness in addressing some of our most pressing challenges. In addition to educating lawmakers in Washington, D.C., communicating the impact locally is just as important! Here are some ways your organization can spread the word about the correlation between philanthropy and thriving communities.

Media Outreach

Letter to the Editor

Democratic Practice

The Council on Foundations is pleased to announce two summer webinars that will delve into critical provisions in comprehensive tax reform proposal introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4). The proposal lays the groundwork for comprehensive tax reform, and contains dozens of provisions that affect foundations, including—

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the Council on Foundations, announce the 2014 Secretaries’ Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships.

Every day, Council members stand at the forefront of innovation, explore creative ways to advance the common good, and find solutions for complex issues in society. For this, the Council's award programs were established to recognize excellence in philanthropy and honor exemplary leaders for their dedication in uplifting the sector.

As we continue this legacy, the Council will award this year the Distinguished Service Award and the Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking.

Speaker Highlights

Kate Ahern, Vice President of Social Innovation, Case Foundation

Working in collaboration with the Center for American Progress, the Council co-hosted conversations among foundations, community development financial institutions, and investment firms about social impact bonds and Pay for Success. Out of these conversations, two issue briefs were created:

The Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking was established in 1985 to recognize a grantmaker who has demonstrated outstanding creativity. It honors grantmakers who, with a combination of vision, principle and personal commitment, are making a critical difference in a creative way. The award was created as a memorial to the late Robert Winston Scrivner, former staff associate of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and first executive director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, by a number of his friends and colleagues.

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