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. Due to the large number of resources on our website, we highly recommend you use the site navigation or the search feature to find what you are looking for.

The Council on Foundations applauds the reintroduction of the Workforce Development Through Post-Graduation Scholarships Act (S.2191/ H.R4095) by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Representatives Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Terri Sewell (D-AL). The bill would allow charitable foundations to provide post-graduation scholarships to help address the growing student debt crisis and stimulate regional economic growth.
When I formally entered the field of philanthropy, I was certain of my commitment to improving the overall quality of life for children and families. But to be frank, what I was not certain of was the full scope of the vast and unique role philanthropy could play in facilitating such change. As a former program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters, I brought with me deep experience on the “dance floor.” I have since learned the importance of “going to the balcony” to bring about change on individual and enterprise levels.
The idea of raising the bar in the philanthropic sector is a great one, but we need to acknowledge some potentially hard truths first: a) the bar is actually set pretty low, so the idea of raising it shouldn’t be the pinnacle of our aspirations; b) we haven’t reached the goals represented by the positioning of the current bar; and c) there are policies, structures and behaviors in our sector that act as weights holding the bar down.
Like many of us in the philanthropic sector, I have, over the past year, been to more than a few webinars and conferences on philanthropy’s role in advancing equity. It can often feel like we’re all following a standard script. We acknowledge that racism exists, and has in fact existed for a while; we acknowledge that philanthropy has traditionally perpetuated injustices; and then we conclude that we must fund communities of color. We’re often too scared of saying the “wrong” thing or the “radical” thing to go any deeper than that.
I came away from the second day of the Council on Foundations’ Leading Together 2021 conference with an enormous amount of hope. Hope in humanity and in the kind and equitable future we will create together, if we challenge ourselves to do better and shift many of our sector practices.
Over the past year, the COVID-19 crisis and violent racism against the Black and AAPI communities provided a moment of reckoning for philanthropic practitioners across the United States. We can capitalize on this moment if we work together, and if we understand that the greater good is more than a lofty ideal.
During sessions on the first day of Leading Together 2021, three words resounded in the conversations: respect, trust, and equity. These three words have tremendous importance, both in our lives as individuals and as philanthropy professionals, and they have the power to reshape the ways that we serve our communities and causes for the better.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the consequences of siloed philanthropy and the imperative to accelerate intersectional, multi-level work, with particular attention to integrating the HIV and COVID-19 responses with racial justice efforts in the U.S.