Splendid Legacy Online

A Companion Collection to "Splendid Legacy 2: Creating and Re-creating Your Family Foundation"

Strategic Lifespan: Considering the Question of Perpetuity

The decision to create a foundation for the ages or for the moment is a highly individual choice. It should be guided by the philanthropic goals laid out by donors and their families.

This section provides additional reading and guidance on how to consider the question of perpetuity and identify a strategic lifespan for your family’s foundation. For a wide variety of additional resources on this topic, search NCFP’s Family Philanthropy Online Knowledge Center.

SPECIAL NOTE: The National Center for Family Philanthropy is grateful for the support of the Quixote Foundation and the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, two limited life foundations who have made significant contributions to NCFP’s capacity to help advise donors and families on a strategic lifespan that meets their goals and objectives.

READ: Why the Choice to Spend Down is Good for Philanthropy

As a new generation of family philanthropists take over — and families contemplate just how long forever actually lasts and reflect on the present needs in their communities — a growing number are deciding that they would rather grant their assets during a set period of time than manage their endowments in perpetuity.

READ: Alternatives to Perpetuity: A Conversation Every Foundation Should Have

This NCFP Passages Issue Brief is aimed at new donors considering a limited lifespan for their foundation, existing foundations that have already set a closing date, or any family contemplating the question of perpetuity.

WATCH: Taking Risks: Why Jeff and Tricia Raikes are Sunsetting the Raikes Foundation

Like Bill and Melinda Gates, Jeff and Tricia Raikes are giving all their money away while they are alive. Why? “Catalytic philanthropy implies taking risks,” says Jeff. Future trustees may not feel empowered to take the risks the Raikeses feel are necessary.

WATCH: Spending Down the Tosa Foundation: The Morgridges Plan to Give it All Away

Tashia & John Morgridge expect their foundation to be approaching a zero balance when they die. What hasn’t been spent will survive in the foundations of their two children.

READ: Perpetuity or Limited Lifespan: How Do Family Foundations Decide?

This report presents findings on family foundations’ choices to spend down or to exist in perpetuity and the factors involved, including foundation assets, age, and presence of a living founder.

READ: Limited Life Foundations: Motivations, Experiences, and Strategies

This report explores both personal and strategic reasons for “sunsetting” as well as the positive and negative effects of limited life on the foundation.

READ: Time Horizon for Family Foundations: It’s Complicated

A primary reason for choosing to operate as a limited life foundation is a belief that making large investments over a shorter period time is a more effective and impactful approach to meeting pressing needs. However, in the unique context of family philanthropy, decisions related to time horizon are rarely as simple as an investment strategy decision.

READ: List of Time Limited Foundations

Browse this annotated list of foundations that have spent down or who are known to be actively spending down (compiled by the Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civil Society at Duke University).