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Topical Resource Lists

Family Foundations:
A Resource List

The term "family foundation" does not have any legal meaning, but the Council on Foundations defines a family foundation as one in which the donor or the donor's relatives play a significant role in governing and/or managing the foundation.

This reading list contains selected citations to works from the Foundation Center's bibliographic database, Catalog of Nonprofit Literature, on the topic of family foundations. For a complete bibliography on this topic, including materials from earlier years, use Catalog of Nonprofit Literature, searching the subject headings family foundations, foundations — management, or foundations — establishment and termination. You may also search by the name of a specific foundation.

Starting a Foundation

Beggs, Sara. How to Start a Private Foundation. Washington, DC: Association of Small Foundations, 2005.
Instructions regarding legal structure, tax-exemption, state registration, and other technical issues related to U.S. law.

Edie, John A. and Kelly Shipp Simone. Family Foundations and the Law: Answers to Essential Questions. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2012.
Identifies legal issues of concern for family foundations and provides answers to commonly asked questions. Topics covered include starting a family foundation, rules for charitable deductions, excise tax of investment income, self-dealing, the 5 percent minimum payout requirement, business holdings, grants outside of the U.S., and other related subjects.

Edie, John A. First Steps in Starting a Foundation. 5th ed. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2001.
Written for the non-lawyer, the donor, and the person seeking advice on establishing a foundation. Edie discusses in detail the numerous types of organizations that are all generally labeled as foundations by the public, and the requirements for establishing, and regulations governing, each type.

Esposito, Virginia M. The Power to Produce Wonders: the Value of Family in Philanthropy. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2010.
This report examines the value of family philanthropy to the family, to communities and to democracy. It provides perspectives of 300 family philanthropy leaders, identifies value-added characteristics of a family's involvement in philanthropy, and presents a variety of challenges facing families engaged in philanthropy.

Esposito, Virginia M. (ed.) Splendid Legacy: The Guide to Creating Your Family Foundation. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2002.
The book is composed of contributions by various specialists on topics ranging from start-up to grantmaking, and is illustrated throughout with examples and lessons from those involved with family philanthropies. Some of the issues discussed include founder's vision, values and ethics; legal concerns; how to fund the foundation; governance; use of consultants; investments; establishing grantmaking priorities; and public relations.

Silk, Roger D. and James W. Lintott. Managing Foundations and Charitable Trusts: Essential Knowledge, Tools, and Techniques for Donors and Advisors. Hoboken, NJ: Bloomberg Press, 2011.
Technically a highly revised and expanded edition of "Creating a Private Foundation" (Silk, 2003) this book is written for those contemplating creating a new foundation or who already have a foundation, charitable trust, donor-advised account, or other charitable entity. Chapters cover the basics of charitable giving, tax incentives and limitations, the business of philanthropy, investments and asset allocation, planned giving, and donor-advised funds.

Management and Governance

Buhl, Alice C. and Judith K. Healey. Family Foundation Retreat Guide. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2006.
Comprehensive guide for family foundations considering their first board retreat or looking for ways to have more effective retreats. Explains how to structure a retreat and how to find a good facilitator.

Esposito, Virginia M. The Family Foundation: Crafting Consensus Out of Complexity. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2012.
This report examines the role of the CEO in a family foundation and covers how to conduct a successful search, the qualities of an effective leader, the interrelationship between the board and the CEO, and transition planning. It also examines special situations, such as the CEO's role in a spend-down foundation.

Gast, Elaine. Built on Principle: A Guide to Family Foundation Stewardship. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2006.
Gast presents nine stewardship principles and practices to guide foundation leaders, whether they are staff or trustees. The tenets relate to governance, ethics, accountability, and family legacy. Sample documents and forms, worksheets, and checklists are included throughout.

Freeman, Douglas and Lee Hausner. A Founder's Guide to the Family Foundation: How to Use, Enjoy and Govern Your Family Foundation. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2005. x, 39 p.
A basic primer that includes discussions of foundation governance, grantmaking, the role of family members, transferring leadership, and terminating the foundation. Appendices include sample grant application forms.

McCoy, Jerry J. and Kathryn W. Miree. Family Foundation Handbook. Chicago, IL: CCH Incorporated, 2011.
A handbook for financial and legal advisors to family philanthropies, but also provides information and guidance of interest to laypeople. Covers basic legal and fiscal matters such as tax benefits, types of foundations, supporting organizations, the steps for creating a foundation, the role of charitable trusts, structure and governance of the philanthropy, operating restrictions, grantmaking, administration, and special issues.

Price, Susan Crites. Current Practices in Family Foundations: a Study in Support of the Pursuit of Excellence Assessment Process. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2010.
The first-ever survey of family foundation practices, intended as benchmarking information to aid foundations in improving their performance.

Price, Susan Crites. The First Year: the Complete Guide for the New Family Foundation CEO. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2012.
Focusing on the first year of a CEO's tenure at a family foundation, this guide provides practical advice for a smooth transition. Discusses how to develop strong board/staff relations, ways to learn about the foundation, the grantees and the community, and dealing with family dynamics.

Price, Susan Crites. Help Wanted: the Complete Guide to Hiring a Family Foundation CEO. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2012.
This hiring guide discusses the uniqueness of the family foundation CEO position and how a foundation should reflect before the search, the search process including forming a search committee and conducting interviews, and special considerations such as hiring family members and obtaining interim help.

Price, Susan Crites. Performance Review: the Complete Guide to Evaluating the Family Foundation CEO. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy, 2012.
This guide focuses on how boards can provide performance reviews for their chief executives. Includes sample board review documents and evaluation worksheets, as well as a year-long goal setting plan for career development.


Alsted, Matt, Charles Lowenhaupt, and Don Trone. "A Ripe Time to Align Principles With Purpose and Process." Family Foundation Advisor (January-February 2012): p. 1, 6-9.
This article explores Mission Related Investing (MRI) which invests capital for societal impact consistent with the sponsor's mission. Since the recent economic downturn has curtailed the grantmaking capacity of many family foundations, MRIs represent an opportunity to sustain an endowment's impact in advancing its mission during periods of financial turmoil. Looks at the categories of MRIs and discusses the limitations of this option.

Best Practices in Grants Management: A Project of the Grants Managers Network. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 2001.
A manual designed to assist grantmakers in the entire spectrum of the grants process ranging from pre-grant activities, approvals and notifications, through grant monitoring. Sample letters and forms for each stage are provided.

Haskell, Jeffrey D. "Grant Making Isn't the Only Way." Trusts & Estates (August 2010): p. 35-9.
An overview of some of the alternatives to grantmaking used by family foundations, such as program-related investments (PRIs), loans, equity investments, and direct charitable activities.

Intergenerational Issues

Gersick, Kelin E. Generations of Giving: Leadership and Continuity in Family Foundations. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004.
Published in collaboration with the National Center for Family Philanthropy, the volume provides a research study of 30 family foundations. The case histories look especially at the formative years, and how family members became involved in leadership--and transitions--over the life of the philanthropy.

Goldberg, Alison and Karen Pittelman. Creating Change Through Family Philanthropy: the Next Generation. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2006.
The authors conducted interviews with young people across the U.S. on the topic of their families' philanthropy. The resulting book is a primer explaining how the younger generation can participate in personal philanthropy with their families. The book explains how a foundation works and how young people can get involved with decision-making. Throughout, it is presumed that the next generation will seek to improve the management of the foundation, so many worksheets and checklists are provided.

Miller, Lee. "Junior boards." Trusts & Estates (August 2007): p. 54-8.
Explains how family foundations can teach the next generation about grantmaking and portfolio management by establishing a junior board composed of children. A sidebar suggests questions to consider when developing the junior board's structure and rules.

In addition to print resources, you may want to browse the following Web sites for more information about family foundations and starting a foundation.
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