Lessons from Family Philanthropy: The Rockefeller Brothers Fund

David Rockefeller (2nd from right) and his children Richard Rockefeller, Neva Goodwin, and David Rockefeller, Jr.

Launching a family foundation is often the expression of donors’ desires to establish a lasting legacy and to instill in future generations the importance of giving. But family foundations face certain common pitfalls as well. They may initially unite family members through a shared sense of mission that could become less shared as the family grows and diffuses over time. If not chartered to operate in perpetuity, they run the risk of splintering or disbanding when family members hold conflicting values or disagree on priorities.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is often held up as an example of a family foundation that has weathered these storms successfully. How might the ingredients of its success be described? What lessons can it offer?

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