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2015 Trends Study

Results of the First National Benchmark Survey of Family Foundations

The National Center for Family Philanthropy enlisted the Urban Institute to design and survey a nationally representative sample of family foundations.

2015 Trends Highlights

Size and scope

The majority of family foundations are relatively small in size and young in age. Nearly 70 percent of family foundations were created after 1990. Seventy percent have less than $10 million in total assets; 3 percent have assets of $200 million or more.

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How the survey was conducted

The survey is based on a nationally representative sample of 2,500 family foundations drawn from the Foundation Center’s family foundation database. To be eligible, a foundation had to have assets of at least $2 million and annual giving of at least $100,000. The sample was stratified by foundation asset and giving levels and had an oversample of large foundations. This mixed-mode survey (conducted by mail, web, and phone) collected data from April to June 2015. In total, 341 family foundations answered the survey, yielding a 17 percent response rate. Forty-seven percent of the respondents were founders; less than 15 percent were paid staff. During analysis, sample weights were applied to the data to account for possible nonresponse bias. The weights were also adjusted for slightly lower response rates among small family foundations and for an oversample of large foundations.

Our research partner

Urban-Institute-logoThe nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. Its Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy analyzes the role, trends, and impact of nonprofit organizations and philanthropy.

National Trends Advisory Committee

The Trends in Family Philanthropy’s National Advisory Committee is tasked with guiding this national research initiative to identify (1) emerging issues, (2) changes in funding priorities, (3) innovative approaches to giving and decisionmaking, and (4) anticipated giving patterns among philanthropic families. Members of the committee will also suggest ways to use the survey results to better understand the implications of this new knowledge and to stimulate discussions, additional research, and action throughout the field resulting from those implications.

  • Alice Buhl, Senior Fellow, National Center for Family Philanthropy, and Senior Consultant, Lansberg Gersick and Associates (chair)
  • Carrie Avery, President, Durfee Foundation

  • Kelly Brown, Director, D5 Coalition

  • Stephanie Cardon, Chair, Andrus Family Fund

  • Carmela Castellano-Garcia, Trustee, Castellano Family Foundation

  • Kathleen Enright, President, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

  • Joel Fleishman, Professor of Law and Public Policy, Duke University

  • Joanne Florino, Senior Vice President for Public Policy, Philanthropy Roundtable
  • Annie Hernandez, Executive Director, Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation and Youth Philanthropy Connect
  • Trista Harris, Executive Director, Minnesota Council on Foundations
  • Audrey Jacobs, Director, Center for Family Philanthropy, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
  • Tony Macklin, Executive Director, Roy A. Hunt Foundation
  • John Mullaney, Executive Director, Nord Family Foundation
  • Kathleen Odne, Executive Director, Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, and Chair, National Center for Family Philanthropy
  • Diane Whitty, Executive Director, Global Head of the Philanthropy Centre, JP Morgan

Thanks to our funders

We offer very special thanks to our project funders:

JP-Morgan-logoWilliam Penn Foundation

The Nord Family Foundation

The Stocker Foundation

The Leighty Foundation

Rasmuson Foundation