Ann Shulman

Executive Director, Philanthropy Associates

Ann Shulman, J.D., LL.M., is the Executive Director of Philanthropy Associates, a firm that provides customized consulting, training, facilitation and executive coaching services to foundation staff and board members. She has over twenty-five years of organizational development experience helping strengthen governance, strategy, decision-making and communications for foundations of all types. Ann is the former President of the Northern California Mediation Association, is the Environmental Program Director of a family foundation in San Francisco, and has served on the boards of many nonprofit organizations, including the West Marin Fund where she is currently Vice Chair. Ann earned her B.S. in Psychology from Duke University, her J.D. from Berkeley Law, and an LL.M. from the European University Institute.


Voices from the Field

Strengthening Your Board’s Decision-making Process

Posted on July 13, 2021 by Ann Shulman

This blog post is excerpted from the new Passages Issue Brief: Demystifying Decision Making in Family Philanthropy How does your Board of Directors make decisions? Do you gather around a table with a clear, concise packet of relevant materials, a well-prepared agenda that spells out which decision-making process will be used, then calmly discuss various proposals until you reach a decision… Read More

Demystifying Decision Making in Family Philanthropy

Posted on June 10, 2021 by Ann Shulman

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… Read More

Common Decision-making Dilemmas

Posted on June 10, 2021 by Ann Shulman

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… Read More

Decision Making when Founders are Present

Posted on June 9, 2021 by Ann Shulman

This is an excerpt from Demystifying Decision Making in Family Philanthropy. Founders accustomed to making their own decisions in a business setting may bring unilateral decision-making to the foundation, often using it inappropriately. Founders may think of the foundation as “theirs” and feel impatient with or dismissive of group decision-making. At the same time, they genuinely want family members to… Read More

Demystifying Decision Making

Posted on December 7, 2020 by Laura Donnelley, Colleen Leth, Ann Shulman, Ashley Blanchard

feet on an arrow pointing different directions - decision, choice, option
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 agreed-upon process to find a solution smoothly and expediently. Learn… Read More