Governance Essentials

About this collection: Every giving effort needs a guiding framework to be effective. Governance is the framework. This Content Collection provides both introductory resources as well as more detailed looks at many of the most important aspects of foundation governance.

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Essential resources on family philanthropy governance.

The Family Giving Lifecycle: Governance Primer

Governance is a framework in which you name how decisions will get made in your philanthropy and by whom. This primer will help you demystify governance, think through whom you would like to join you, and how you will make decisions as a group.

Good Governance: Basic Rules For Governing A Family Foundation

Book Chapter
Once the donor has determined the most appropriate giving mechanism, such as a private foundation, the board of trustees begins to play a role in governance. Usually with the guidance of the donor, the board sets policy for managing foundation affairs, investing the endowment's portfolio, and making grants.
Graphic of the Family Governance Pyramid

The Family Governance Pyramid: Enhancing and Guiding Your Family Philanthropy

Passages Issue Briefs
The Family Governance Pyramid provides a model and framework for philanthropic families that is even more relevant and necessary today than when it was first introduced nearly two decades ago. This article provides some perspective on why, and how, families can apply this model to their family and philanthropy, for…

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For those looking to learn more on the topic of family philanthropy governance.

Board Compensation: Reasonable and Necessary?

Passages Issue Briefs
Deciding whether to compensate or reimburse family foundation board members can be a difficult and complex decision. This Passages Issue Brief provides guidance on the legal regulations regarding compensation, suggestions for how to initiate a conversation among your board members about whether or not compensation is appropriate, and suggestions for…
feet on an arrow pointing different directions - decision, choice, option
May 13, 2021

Demystifying Decision Making

Philanthropic families employ a wide range of models to make decisions—from unilateral authority to consensus. However, identifying the appropriate structure is often a challenge and can serve as a barrier to effective philanthropic practices. Developing an appropriate decision-making framework for distinct situations allows families to rely on an established and…

Conflicts of Interest and Avoiding Self-dealing for Family Foundation Boards

Passages Issue Briefs
This Issue Brief includes a detailed history and descriptions of the self-dealing rules, with a particular focus on self-dealing as it relates to managing a foundation’s investments. The paper also features a collection of short vignettes on common questions and a one-page referral checklist for board members and staff.
board room, board meeting
April 8, 2021

Effective Governance: Principles, Policies, and Practices

Preview the conversation with "The Purpose and Power of Family Governance" by Patricia Angus. Family philanthropy is rooted in the act of collective decision making—one that is often codified in a formal governance structure. But what is governance and how can a family adopt its framework to effectively guide their…

Tools + Sample Policies & Practices

May 12, 2022

Designing Effective Board Meetings: Purpose, Outcomes, Process, and People

Board meetings serve as a touchpoint for engaged family members and decision makers to come together in service of a collective giving effort—to make choices about strategy, direct funding, and receive updates on the philanthropy. Board meetings can also provide a space for learning and education. Join us for a…

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.