Governance

Building a Framework for Your Decision Making

Every giving effort needs a guiding framework to be effective. Governance—defined principles, policies, and practices— is the framework.

Governance, a system for who will make decisions and how, is the means by which you and others—your family or non-family stakeholders—can strive together to achieve long-term philanthropic success.

There is no shortage of hard choices to be made in philanthropy, from which issues to explore to which organizations to support. Without governance, trying to navigate this terrain as a family or group often magnifies the difficulty of the challenge.

Consider the following:

  • Who will make decisions in what settings?
  • How will we make decisions?
  • How will we document our choices?

Designed to help you create a structure that supports your goals, this primer and the following content offer a framework for exploring the people, principles, policies, and practices that comprise your governance.

Download the Governance Primer

Featured Resources

PASSAGES ISSUE BRIEFS | July 14, 2021

The Family Governance Pyramid: Enhancing and Guiding Your Family Philanthropy

Family philanthropy is a very important expression of a family’s commitment to society. It is a high calling for a family that wishes to have an impact greater than their individual efforts alone could accomplish. A private family enters the public realm to visibly support the social contract—the combination of efforts by government, business, and eleemosynary organizations that hold society

PASSAGES ISSUE BRIEFS | June 10, 2021

Demystifying Decision Making in Family Philanthropy

This Passages Issue Brief examines the kinds of decisions that family foundations often face and sets out practical, easy-to-apply guidelines for ensuring that the foundation’s decision-making methods vary appropriately, as conditions and circumstances change. It includes factors to consider when selecting a decision-making method, guidance on how to communicate clearly, simple tools to help make good decisions, and short case

PASSAGES ISSUE BRIEFS | May 21, 2013

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

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.

BOOK CHAPTER | September 21, 2017

Good Governance: The Foundation Imperative

This resource is an excerpt of Chapter 8 from “Splendid Legacy 2: Creating and Re-creating Your Family Foundation”.

PASSAGES ISSUE BRIEFS | May 14, 2019

Family Philanthropy Board Chairs: Leading with Joy and Effectiveness

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, leadership, and a healthy dose of self-awareness—a combination that’s not always easy to find.

SAMPLE | June 13, 1999

Checklist of Fiduciary Responsibilities

This checklist of board fiduciary responsibilities from ‘Investment Issues for Family Funds’ includes questions on the areas of investment knowledge and oversight; reporting requirements; and planning for the future.

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