Geographic Dispersion: Giving Together Across Distances

About this collection: This Content Collection share webinars, stories, and tips for geographically dispersed family foundation boards and families.

In our increasingly mobile society, family philanthropies once defined by their proximity now encounter a new obstacle: geography. How does geography affect a philanthropy’s mission? How do you keep the family and the philanthropy together? This Content Collection share webinars, stories, and tips for geographically dispersed family foundation boards and families.

For an in-depth discussion of place-based family philanthropy, see Pride of Place: Sustaining a Family Commitment to Geography.

Featured Resource: Pride of Place

Pride of Place: Sustaining a Family Commitment to Geography

Report
How has place-based family philanthropy evolved over time? NCFP is proud to publish Pride of Place: Sustaining a Family Commitment to Geography, a study of place-based foundations and funds. A place-based foundation or fund is committed—often exclusively—to a particular geographic region of the country.

NCFP Webinars

May 12, 2016

Diverse and Dispersed: Managing a Far-Flung Family

In our increasingly mobile society, family philanthropies once defined by their proximity now encounter a new obstacle: geography. How does geography affect a philanthropy’s mission? How do you keep the family and the philanthropy together? And how do families take advantage of diverse perspectives on key issues within the …
May 9, 2013

Over the River and Through the Woods: Geographic Dispersion in Family Philanthropy

With family members living far apart, what steps can families take to build family identity and bonds that once evolved naturally from living in close proximity? How can family members whose lives have taken different paths forge a genuinely collaborative team driven by a mission derived from and embraced by …
April 11, 2013

Community Connections: Place-Based Family Philanthropy

While some families pay particular attention to the family’s legacy of giving, and some focus on a particular issue or cause, many choose to limit their grantmaking to a specific city, state or region. Hometown serves as both the family’s sense of place and commitment. Gratitude to a …
March 8, 2007

Engaging a Philanthropic Family with Many Divergent Interests

Stephen Toben, President of the Flora Family Foundation of Menlo Park, California, discusses the role of staff in helping to create a truly meaningful giving experience for philanthropic families. The Flora Family Foundation was founded in 1998 as a direct response to the desires of the descendants of William and Flora …
December 14, 2006

Grantmaking with a Compass: Geographic Dispersion in Philanthropic Families

In our increasingly mobile society, family philanthropies once defined by their proximity now encounter a new obstacle: geography. How does geography affect a philanthropy's mission? How do you keep the family and the philanthropy together? Nancy Brain and Diane Bryant, sisters and trustees of the Frances Hollis Brain Foundation, explore …

Grantmaking with a Compass: The Challenges of Geography

Funding in Areas Where Trustees No Longer Live

Book Chapter
Today, it is not uncommon for families to find themselves funding in geographical areas where family members no longer live, or, for that matter, where no future generations of family are likely to live.

Formulas for Dividing Grant Allocations

Tool
The geographically dispersed foundations in this monograph varied widely in their approaches to dividing grant allocations. In an effort to be scrupulously fair-or in some cases to avoid family squabbles-some foundations devised precise mathematical formulas for dividing funds among geographic and program areas. Others took the opposite approach; they operated …

Communicating at a Distance

Book Chapter
Nowadays it is relatively rare to find family members who all live in the same community where the foundation funds. If present trends continue, those foundations are likely to be even more rare in the future.

Opportunities for Geographically Dispersed Boards

Book Chapter
The preceding chapters focus on the challenges that confront family foundations dealing with geographic dispersion. There is no denying the added complications of operating a foundation when family members live far apart.

Community Foundations: A Tool for Managing Geographic Dispersion

Are There Any Problems with a Foundation Setting Up a Donor-Advised Fund?

Ask the Center
There are no problems with a foundation setting up a donor-advised fund. When the Pension Protection Act was drafted back in 2006, one of the things they considered explicitly was prohibiting distributions from donor-advised funds to private foundations, because of the way you can arbitrage the tax rules. They left that …

Additional Resources

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 …

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 …

Geographic Dispersion

Article
Q: My family’s foundation has traditionally given in New England and continues to support nonprofits there, but family members live all around the country. How do we keep people engaged? A: As today’s families are more mobile than ever, geographic dispersion has become a crucial issue for family …

Geographic Dispersion: Opportunities for Far-Flung Families

Article
Among all the challenges that family philanthropies of all types face, giving families increasingly find themselves struggling with geography. In 2000, the National Center for Family Philanthropy and the Foundation Center found that the grants of a vast majority of family foundations were committed to a city, state, or region; only 7.8% …

Best practices for geographically dispersed board members

Report
This study investigates how family foundations manage governance, decision making, and, especially, daily work activities when the number of local board members diminishes. In most foundations interviewed, either all or a high proportion of board members do not live in the region where the foundation is headquartered.