Family Meetings and Retreats

About this collection: This Content Collection provides tips and ideas for how to craft better family meeting agendas, keep your meetings on track, and accomplish your work more effectively - and maybe even have some fun!

How do you create a ‘safety zone’ at meetings for sensitive issues? How can executive directors help the board chair take responsibility for managing the board meeting? What is the role of the board versus the staff in facilitating the agenda? How do we create – and ensure that we follow – ground rules for stress-free family meetings?

This Content Collection provides answers to these questions and many more, offering tips and ideas for how to craft better family meeting agendas, keep your meetings on track, and accomplish your work more effectively – perhaps even while having some fun!

Note: for additional insights on understanding and managing family dynamics, see the related Content Collection, Family Dynamics: Avoiding Avoidance in Family Philanthropy.


Featured Resources

Reinvigorating Your Family Meetings

Article
If you are wondering how it is possible that everyone in your family is offering an excuse for missing the family meeting date, then it is time for some new ideas or approaches to turn these meetings into events that no one wants to miss. How? By planning a purposeful …

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 …

Principled Planning: A Guide for Family Foundation Retreats

Tool
In 2005, the Council on Foundations developed a set of Stewardship Principles  to help family foundation board members govern, manage and lead their family foundations. These principles were based on more than a year’s worth of work, with input from hundreds of family foundation executives and trustees as well as …

Six Simple Steps to a Successful, Stress-Free Family Meeting

Article
Like so many other things preparation for a family meeting is vital to its success. With a little planning you can orchestrate and carry off a family meeting that accomplishes your philanthropic goals, strengthens your family’s commitment to effective governance of your giving vehicle, and is more enjoyable than …

Webinars on Creative Board Agendas and Decision-making

August 13, 2020

Planning a Family Retreat

Getting your family together for a retreat is a great way to spend quality time together, as well as focus on your family’s giving with the foundation. Families use a variety of resources to build community and discuss important topics in their philanthropy. In this webinar, you will hear …
October 10, 2013

Creating a Culture of Learning for Your Family and Board

In the introduction to "Generations of Giving," NCFP's seminal study of multi-generational family philanthropy, lead author Kelin Gersick writes that "success in family philanthropy is measured in part by the family members' commitment to the foundation's work, the satisfaction they take in doing that work together, and the foundation's ability …
August 12, 2010

Creative Agendas for More Effective Family Meetings

Armed with the tips and ideas in this teleconference, you’ll be able to craft better family meeting agendas that fit the specific needs of your members, keep your meetings on track, ensure you focus on the right things, accomplish your work more effectively and maybe even have some fun! …
September 15, 2016

Demystifying decision-making in family philanthropy

How do you make decisions related to your family’s philanthropy? Does the method you choose vary based on the importance or complexity of the decision? Different kinds of decisions made under varying conditions and circumstances may require different decision-making methods. This webinar features Ann Shulman, an attorney, mediator, and …

Sample Groundrules, Policies, and Agendas

Ground rules for family meetings

Sample
A set of working ground rules to help families and boards to have productive and participatory discussions about important issues. Stated objective of these ground rules: to create a safe environment for open conversation.

Ground Rules for Family Retreat Working Sessions

Sample
Objective: To create a safe environment for open conversation No personal attacks Arrive on time Equal time for speakers Speak briefly, time is limited When others speak, listen—don’t prepare your remarks Listen with intent to understand Be open to others points of view; to outcome; to each person …

Rules of Engagement for Family Foundation Board Meetings

Article
A: This a common complaint of families who make grants together. It’s challenging enough for unrelated people to do this important work, but personalities and family baggage can make meetings even more complicated. Judy Healey, a leading family philanthropy consultant shares 10 rules for more harmonious communication in the board …

Fist to Five Voting and Consensus

Sample
Fist to Five is quality voting. It has the elements of consensus built in and can prepare groups to transition into consensus if they wish. Most people are accustomed to the simplicity of “yes” and “no” voting rather than the complex and more community-oriented consensus method of decision making. Fist …

Controversial grants policy (Roy A. Hunt Foundation)

Tool
Harmonious agreement on grants is not always possible within a family foundation with diverse granting interests. Trustees sometimes struggle to develop strategies to guide the consideration process when points of view differ. This policy from the Roy A. Hunt Foundation provides a framework for managing “controversial grants” from the family …

Sample family foundation meeting agenda (Russell Family Foundation)

Sample
5 minutes     Opening Reading A story that reflects one of the values of your foundation (serious or humorous). Focuses Trustees and sets the tone for the meeting. 15–30 minutes    Executive Session What keeps the executive director up at night? Trustees are active listeners, building a trusting relationship with the executive director 1–3 hours    …

Preparing For A Board Retreat On Donor Legacy

Tool
A donor legacy retreat should be designed to build trust among family members, and to help communicate the family's shared tradition and legacy of giving. One of the best ways to ensure that this happens is to engage family and board members in all aspects of the planning and retreat …

Tips and Tools for Virtual Family Meetings

How can board members stay connected across time zones and significant distances?

Ask the Center
As families grow, geographic dispersion of family and board members will become a common challenge. Each and every family must figure out a strategy that is right for you. Kelly Nowlin, family trustee of the Surdna Foundation, suggests the following, “The executive director or president of the foundation can make …

Do You Have Suggestions for Tools We Can Use to Communicate with Board Members?

Ask the Center
This is a great question! By nature, board meetings require a lot of time and preparation. It can be challenging to ensure all board members have the correct information at the correct time. Thankfully, over the years, different platforms have emerged to help your board be better prepared and engaged.

How Can We Conduct an Effective Board Meeting by Telephone?

Blog Post
Editor’s Note: This article addresses a strategy which an increasing number of geographically dispersed family foundations have been forced to rely upon in recent years – conducting the occasional board meeting by telephone. It is reprinted with permission from Blue Avocado, a practical and readable online magazine for nonprofits. Subscribe …

Sample Codes of Conduct