Common Decision-making Dilemmas

This is an excerpt from Demystifying Decision Making in Family Philanthropy.

Do any of these common decision-making dilemmas sound familiar to you or your family foundation board?

  • One board member, often a founder or parent, wields more influence than the others, but the influence is not explicitly acknowledged;
  • Board members go along with a vote just to get the decision over with, even if they don’t fully support or understand it;
  • Board members—or other stakeholders—are asked to give their opinions, even though key decision-makers have already made up their minds;
  • A decision made when the whole board is present is later undone by board member(s) who disagree with it;
  • Board members disagree with a decision more because of emotions related to the person supporting the idea than because of the content of the decision;
  • No one is in charge, so the decision-making process is unclear or falls apart;
  • Board members apply different lenses, priorities, filters, or criteria to make a decision such that expectations are not aligned;
  • There is insufficient or inadequate information to make an informed decision, and/or the necessary stakeholders have not been consulted;
  • Participants don’t openly express genuine opinions around family members for fear of rocking the boat.