How Do We Include Successor Generations on the Board?

In some family foundations, there are eager and willing members of the second, third and even fourth generations who can serve as trustees. In these cases, responsible philanthropy and ethical treatment of family members means developing specific criteria for trustees and applying these criteria objectively in inviting new trustees. Criteria might include such factors as experience and maturity, diversity of perspective on the board, including each branch of an extended family, etc. Open discussion among the current trustees about nominations and selections is also important.

Other families experience difficulty in “recruiting” new trustees from younger generations. Members of these generations may have no interest or simply be too busy with their own priorities. Ways to encourage interest include keeping the extended family informed of foundation activities on a regular basis, inviting younger family members to visit board meetings or to get involved in particular projects to see the work of the foundation, seeking advice from other family members about the foundation’s priorities, etc. In some cases, founders establish their foundation in large measure to provide a vehicle for encouraging their children to get involved in philanthropic purposes.


NOTE: This Ask the Center is reprinted with permission from Michael Rion’s book, Responsible Family Philanthropy: A Resource Book on Ethical Decisionmaking for Family Foundations, originally published in 1998 by the Council on Foundations. While the book is no longer in print, you may be interested in watching the replay of NCFP’s August 2015 webinar, titled “Passing the ‘Mirror Test’: Ethics and Family Philanthropy.”

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