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 staff person who works part or full-time and deals primarily with administrative issues. This person might handle correspondence and telephone calls, log in grant requests, track the grant process, arrange for meetings, send letters and grant approvals, make deposits, and reconcile financial records. In an administrator model there is usually a specific office location but the administrator may work for other foundations or may handle other work for a trustee, lawyer, or financial advisor who is related to the foundation. Sometimes administrative staff time is provided on a pro bono basis by one of the trustees.
Strengths: The foundation trustees are freed from routine administrative tasks. Trustees maintain hands-on direction of the foundation.
Possible problems: The administrator needs a clear supervisor and may need help in adjusting to differing board chairs. This model assumes that trustees have the time to provide grant review and leadership themselves.
In this case, an individual is hired to do specific tasks that recur regularly but are not necessarily ongoing. For instance a consultant might receive grant requests and prepare recommendations for the trustees. Or an individual might be asked to manage financial resources. The consultant is usually paid an hourly or daily rate and may spend extensive time for the foundation during a grant review process twice a year, for instance.
In some foundations, the consultant acts as an executive director, assisting the board in the development of grant focus areas and Requests for Proposals.
Strengths: The cost of ongoing staff and office space is not necessary. It is possible to hire specific expertise on a part-time basis that the foundation could not afford on a full-time basis.
Possible problems: The consultant needs to maintain close contact with trustees and reflect their values and interests in recommendations. The foundation may be less visible without a specific office and an easily accessible person to meet with. Response time to applicants and grantees is frequently delayed because the consultant has other commitments.
In this model, a staff person is hired to provide recommendations and oversight in most or all of the foundation's activities. The staff person who is usually, but not necessarily full-time may have the title of Executive Director. The Director oversees any other staff, manages the office, receives and makes program focus and grant recommendations to the board, works with the board chair to develop board agenda, and provides recommendations related to financial resources. This model most closely parallels the role of Executive Directors in independent or non-family foundations.
Strengths: Trustees can provide leadership without the necessity of spending large amounts of time. A professional staff person has time to be aware of opportunities and developments in the community and the field. A non-family executive director may act as a calming influence on volatile family dynamics.
Possible problems: This is the most costly staffing model. The staff person might not accurately reflect the values or interests of the trustees.
A trustee may serve a specific staff role on a part-time or a full-time basis. In this model, the trustee usually receives a salary and fulfills the same role a specific staff person might. Any of the above staff roles could be filled by a trustee staff.
Strengths: The trustee staff knows the family and its values and concerns. A trustee staff person may have a longer term commitment.
Possible problems: A trustee staff can be caught up in the family issues and concerns or may be seen as having a point of view or position. It may be harder to develop and implement appropriate accountability measures for trustee staff because of family relationships.
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