Board Composition, Diversity, and Recruitment

About this collection: This Content Collection provides resources, perspectives, and sample polices for families and boards thinking about board composition and recruitment, both within and outside the family. Included are resources on the advantages, challenges, questions, and opportunities of engaging non-family trustees on a family foundation board and of promoting diversity and inclusion in the field of family philanthropy at large.

Please see the NCFP Content Collection on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for additional information and resources.
Interested in learning more about this topic alongside your peers? Consider signing up for a current or future cohort of NCFP’s Racial Justice Learning & Action Network.

Featured Resources

Building the Board Your Foundation Deserves

The title of this post has been carefully chosen to start or renew a conversation around great governance. How do you build the board your foundation deserves? Are there practices that make the most of volunteer leadership? Are there practices that keep you from having a highly functioning board? The…

A Steadying Hand: The Critical Role of Non-family Board Members

Passages Issue Briefs
This special Passages Issue Brief written by NCFP Distinguished Fellow Susan Packard Orr describes the various skills, expertise, and perspectives that non-family board members can provide, as well as some of the common challenges for families seeking to add their first non-family board members, and tips for how to set…

A Place at the Table: Non-Family Membership on the Family Foundation Board

Passages Issue Briefs
Family giving comes from a common cause, a shared vision, a particular need for giving back a portion of life’s gifts. Family members can focus on shared personal interests and can shape the architecture of their giving by expressing and validating shared family experience. Foundation board service can be the…

Families In Flux: Guidelines for Participation in Your Family’s Philanthropy

Passages Issue Briefs
Family members marry, divorce, remarry, form domestic partnerships and, in many cases, move far away from the family home. With families growing ever more complex, varied, and far-flung, foundations and donor-advised funds need clear guidelines regarding who participates in their philanthropy and in what roles. This Passages report addresses changing…

Passing the Baton: Generations Sharing Leadership

Passages Issue Briefs
Today’s family foundation field has many well-prepared next generation members and a whole generation of longer living, active senior members. And while the field has been resourceful in promoting next gen involvement, it has done little to address succession issues for the senior generation or to consider options for shared,…

Choosing and Preparing Your Grantmaking Successors

Passages Issue Briefs
Family foundation donors and first generation boards should begin the continuity and succession discussion early in the foundation’s lifetime if perpetuity is the objective. In a succession plan, one trustee usually succeeds another. However, before succession can take place there should be continuity of governance where members of more than…
March 14, 2013

Adding nonfamily trustees and community voices to your family foundation board

What are the signs that your foundation’s board might benefit from adding a community leader to bring new energy and a fresh voice to board deliberations and decisions? Some family foundations have never had an outside trustee on the board and don’t want one. Others have had non-family trustees since…
June 12, 2014

Navigating Leadership Transitions in Family Philanthropy

Every family philanthropy experiences the joy, the sadness, the complexity, and the energy of transitions. Moving toward new leadership in the family can be difficult, emotional, and sometimes frustrating. However, when it is done deliberately and thoughtfully, these times of transition can also be positive for all involved. Times of…

What do we call our non-family board members?

Currently, we use the term “non-family” board member for board members who are not members of our founding family, but we would like to find another term for these individuals. What do you suggest? Here are a few examples of other terms used by family foundations around the country.
July 12, 2018

Making Space at The Table: Welcoming New Voices to Your Family Giving

There are so many ways to welcome new voices into your family giving to enhance your own giving and family impact. Having others engaged can enhance diversity, inclusion, help your own family, and introduce new ideas and perspectives for impact. Hear from families who have found creative ways to engage…

We’re a Family: How Can We Be Diverse?

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on the Minnesota Council on Foundations’ Philanthropy Potluck Blog, and is used with MCOF’s permission. During discussions of diversity in philanthropy, family grantmakers sometimes get frustrated. Their thoughts may immediately turn to: “Our board members are family, how can we be diverse?” No matter your family’s…

The Changing Face of Philanthropy: Diversity in Family Giving

Quick, create a mental picture of a philanthropist. What do you see? An older white man? That’s the picture that pops into most of our heads. And it’s not surprising — this is the dominant image of philanthropy in the United States. From Andrew Carnegie to Warren Buffett, these are…
Red tulips in a park

Ready to Add Non-Family Board Members?

Blog Post
Changing familiar habits and traditions, and welcoming non-family into the fold, requires a degree of sacrifice and risk-taking. In return, there is an improved outcome in sight. Adding community or expert board members has the potential to increase the family foundation’s effectiveness.

Keeping “Control”

Our foundation has begun discussions to add nonfamily trustees to enhance and complement the skills and perspectives currently on our all-family board. How do we ensure that the family will not lose “control” of the foundation over time? There are a variety of strategies that family foundations around the country…

Sample Policies, Forms, and Letters

Board Governance Responsibilities

Getting ready to involve a new generation in governing your family foundation? Consider these challenges and desired characteristics provided by both senior generation and next generation family members.

Inclusiveness and diversity statement

This statement on the value and importance of inclusiveness and diversity was developed by the Board of Directors for the Surdna Foundation: This policy includes, but is not limited to, the Foundation’s activities and practices in hiring, training, compensation, benefits, promotions, terminations, and business and community relations. Employees and candidates…

Guiding Questions to Advance Racial Diversity in an Organization

A series of discussion questions for nonprofit organizations designed to help board and staff identify: How organizatinal polcies and procedures may hinder or impact racial diversity within the organization, and An agreed upon process for moving towards meeting diversity goals.  

Community Board Members: Panta Rhea Foundation Recruitment Documents

In 2020, the board of directors for the Panta Rhea Foundation announced it’s intentions to expand the board to include leadership and representation from outside the donor family. In 2021, after a long search involving trusted partners & grantees, the foundation welcomed trustees from the broader social justice and nonprofit community, Solomé Lemma and Cedric Brown. The following documents share various aspects of their community board member recruitment and interview process.

Community Board Member Interest Form

Online form designed to allow applicants to the Panta Rhea Foundation’s community board position the chance to share their backgrounds and skills that could help further the foundation's work.