The Council on Foundations exists to help philanthropy be a strong and trusted partner in advancing the common good. Building on our 70-year history, we are charting a course for the field where funders display high integrity, earn and maintain the public's trust and serve as excellent stewards of philanthropic resources. We imagine a world where givers of all kinds are sophisticated and vital players in creating more equitable communities and a better world.
Voices from the Field

COVID-19 Legislative Update

Posted on April 1, 2020 by Stephanie Powers

Supreme Court building
Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the Council on Foundations and re-posted here with permission. For more legislative resources, visit the Council’s website. Congress Passes $2 Trillion COVID-19 Bill The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act—H.R. 748 (116)—was passed by the House and signed by President Trump today. The $2 trillion relief package will provide… Read More

Recommended Best Practices in Managing Foundation Endowments

Posted on November 29, 2017 by Council on Foundations

While foundations differ in sophistication, resources, staff, and amount of financial resources, there are both specific responsibilities incumbent on foundation boards and generally accepted principles for investment management. These best practices are universal to effective management of investment portfolios as applied to fit the specific circumstances of each foundation… Read More

A Colleague’s Perspective on Trustee Orientation

Posted on November 8, 2014

“Becoming a trustee of a family foundation can be a complex, confusing and confounding experience. Suddenly you are thrust into a room full of persons whom you thought you knew, but now they are all in different roles.” So begins the introduction to this first-person account of the value of a thoughtful and comprehensive trustee orientation program… Read More

The mad hatter: 13 key roles for family foundation CEOs

Posted on April 22, 2014 by Gary A. Tobin

Family foundation CEOs have enormous influence, because the family relies on him or her and often views the professional as providing an objective voice. The family foundation professional also has critical input, playing a powerful brokering role among board members because he or she prepares documents, helps with the agenda and provides other key information… Read More
Voices from the Field

Diversity as a Family Affair

Posted on March 23, 2014 by Cole Wilbur

What value can diversity bring to the work of family foundations? First of all, diversity is now more interwoven into the fabric of our society, including our neighborhoods, education, business and media. Integrating diversity into many aspects of a family foundation’s work can result in more compelling grantmaking, particularly in responding effectively to demographic changes that nonprofit organizations face every… Read More

Is there a role for non-trustee members of the family?

Posted on December 11, 2013 by Michael Rion

Responsible family philanthropy encompasses not only a sense of public accountability but also a sense of responsibility to other family members who may not be trustees. If the donor clearly intended for the foundation to encourage the extended family to be interested in philanthropy, current trustees should consider how best to communicate foundation policies and actions and to receive appropriate… Read More

How should we choose trustees when there is a vacancy?

Posted on December 11, 2013 by Michael Rion

Apart from some minimal requirements of state law (e.g., mental competency), there are no legal mandates about the process of choosing trustees. In some cases, especially in small foundations with very few family members, succession may be directed in the by-laws and/or by custom so that, for example, direct descendants are “in line” as the successor trustees.  When trustees have… Read More

Do we need formal policies on trustee selection, orientation, and evaluation?

Posted on December 11, 2013 by Michael Rion

Although there are no legal requirements, commitment to responsible trusteeship includes ensuring that such policies and procedures appropriate to the size and nature of the board are in place. For many foundations, this may mean nothing more than a mutual understanding between two spouses or siblings that review and evaluation of one another’s actions as trustees is appropriate when needed… Read More

How do we include successor generations on the board?

Posted on December 11, 2013 by Michael Rion

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… Read More

What is the appropriate role for non-family trustees and how are they selected? Should they be treated any differently from family trustees?

Posted on December 11, 2013 by Michael Rion

Non-family trustee positions should be clearly defined, regarding both criteria for filling the position and the length, renewability, etc., of terms. Although nothing prevents trustees from simply appointing their closest friends and advisors without regard to other criteria, ethical responsibility considerations would suggest some more objective criteria related to the mission and purpose of the foundation and the rationale for… Read More