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.

Girl Hugging FatherSince October 2017, the U.S. government has forcibly separated at least 2,400 children—including hundreds who are under four years old—from their parents as they arrive on our southern border seeking refuge. Attorneys and other humanitarian aid workers are reporting significant trauma and despair for separated families.

Photo of the first page of the 2020 Census on the American flag.

With the 2020 Census nearing, organizations throughout the sector have been engaged in many ways, including educating policymakers, informing stakeholder communities and rallying the philanthropic sector around various issues related to the Census.

Below are some resources that foundations may find helpful:

In June 2018, we saw concerning new developments related to the use of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) in targeting U.S. non-profits that also work internationally. The House Committee on Natural Resources sent a letter to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as part of an investigation into the “potential manipulation of tax-exempt 501(c) organizations by foreign entities to influence U.S.

On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) introduced the Reducing Excessive Debt and Unfair Costs of Education (REDUCE) Act of 2018 (H.R. 5916). The bill comes as part of a broad plan Rep. Reed announced in late 2016 to address college affordability. The proposal targets colleges and university endowment-spending practices and gift acceptance policies as a means of increasing affordability.

The Council's 2018 summer internsI have been eager to intern at the Council on Foundations since I received my acceptance letter. While coming into this experience, I did not know what exactly the Council was, I am excited to learn more about the sector and help achieve the organization’s goals. I am 1 of 7 interns here at CoF for the summer.


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The administrative costs of operating a private foundation often prove too burdensome and can easily swamp the grantmaking activity of private foundations, especially the smaller ones. As such, a foundation may decide to transfer its assets to a Sponsoring Organization to take advantage of the administrative efficiencies of using a donor advised fund, all the while supporting its exempt purpose.