Family Foundation Board Chair Roles and Responsibilities

About this collection: This Content Collection provides a variety of tips and perspectives from current board chairs about how to manage this vital role in family philanthropy.

Successful family foundation board chairs are able to both drive action and manage egos — and are often the difference between a foundation deftly navigating challenging situations and being tripped up by them. It’s a role that needs careful consideration. Those serving in this capacity need the leadership skills needed to run smooth, productive board meetings as well as a nuanced set of interpersonal skills. This Content Collection provides a variety of tips and perspectives from current board chairs about how to manage this vital role in family philanthropy.

Are you a board chair or do you know someone in this role who might be interested in learning alongside peers? Consider signing up for NCFP’s Board Chairs Peer Network.

Top Resources: Start Here!

Two white women sit at a table, looking off camera to illustrate the Passages issue brief on Board Chairs

Family Philanthropy Board Chairs: Leading with Joy and Effectiveness

Passages Issue Briefs
A board chair is perhaps the most important and meaningful job in any family foundation. If you are currently chair—or anticipate that you will be someday—you may find it’s one of the most rewarding roles you will ever have. It’s also a role of great nuance, calling for keen facilitation,…

Why Your Board Chair Needs a Job Description

Article
Successful family foundation board chairs are able to both drive action and manage egos — and are often the difference between a foundation deftly navigating challenging situations and being tripped up by them.

Good Governance: How Should Family Foundation Boards Spend Their Time?

Article
Checks landing in the mailboxes of nonprofit organizations with foundation return ad-dresses have long been considered philanthropy’s most important currency. Reflecting that view, family foundations have tended to focus their operations, self-image, and their very reasons for being on getting the dollars out the door...

Ten Essential Responsibilities of Foundation Board Chairs

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If you are new to nonprofit leadership, you may not know what is expected of a board chair. This primer is designed to increase your understanding of the role by presenting a brief introduction to nonprofit governance and foundation leadership.

NCFP Webinars

February 9, 2017

Becoming a Successful Board Chair: Tips and Advice from Your Peers

Board chairs play an important and indispensable role in family foundations. Much more than just an honorary title, serving as board chair requires extra preparation, time, and specific skillsets. Join NCFP as we learn from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation Board Chair and President about the wide range of tasks…
May 16, 2019

Relationship Between the Board Chair and CEO

How do board chairs and CEOs develop and maintain their partnerships? How do family foundation board chairs and CEOs build a relationship of trust and bridge the divide between physical distance, differences between staff and family member roles, and continue the work of the foundation during times of transition? Join…
April 9, 2015

The Critical Role of the Board Chair in Family Philanthropy

What are the critical roles and responsibilities of family foundation board chairs? What are the traps that board chairs can fall into, and how can you avoid them? How can CEOs and board chairs create a mutually respectful and positive long-term partnership? And how can your family identify and prepare…

Board Chair Job Descriptions

George Family Foundation: Responsibilities of the Board Chair

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Oversee fulfillment of the mission and goals of the foundation: Make sure GFF is serving society effectively and fulfilling its strategic and organizational goals Periodically revisit the mission, operating principles, “Constitution” of the GFF Be a spokesperson with influential audiences in focus areas of key interest Engage with activities that…

Policy Central: Board Meetings, Board Job Descriptions, and Rotation Policies

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Boards that anticipate and plan for potential bumps in the road are far more likely to avoid difficult situations than those who create policies while in the middle of crisis. Included here are conflict of interest policies, board position descriptions, election and rotation policies, and much more. Please read our…

Additional Tips and Tools for Board Chairs

Tips and tools for effective family board meetings

Article
This month’s Ask the Center features tips and tools for effective family board meetings from Marla Bobowick, former Vice President at BoardSource and founder of Bobowick Consulting, and Karie Brown, principal of KB Consulting and Board member of the Hidden Leaf Foundation. Marla and Karie were the featured speakers on…

Boardroom Battles: 5 Ways to Move Beyond Conflict

Article
Most board members are rational, committed professionals. However, even among the most collegial boards there's always the possibility of conflict, and savvy foundation leaders I know have used the following approaches to diffuse disagreement smoothly and quickly.

Recusals: When Should Board Members Excuse Themselves?

Ask the Center
If five out of our six board members are on another board of a non-profit, how do we make grants to that non-profit without a majority vote? What are the rules on recusals? This is a little tricky but the members are not required to recuse themselves as long as…