Top 5 Starting Places for Family Foundations and Donors

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By: Michael Moody, Frey Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy

These five resources in the LearnPhilanthropy Knowledge Library are ideal starting places for grantmakers involved in family giving in some way – as a trustee or staff of a family foundation or a donor-advised fund, as an individual donor, as a consultant or family advisor, etc. This list also points to some of the primary infrastructure organizations serving family grantmakers, and each source has multiple other resources for family donors who want to dig further.

  1. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors: Your Philanthropy Roadmap The “Philanthropy Roadmap” is a series of free educational guidebooks produced by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), designed especially for new and emerging donors. The guides are based on RPA’s many years of advising and assisting donors and families in their philanthropic journeys. This first guide introduces the series and provides an overview of issues that donors should consider when crafting an effective giving strategy.
  2. National Center for Family Philanthropy: Current Practices in Family Foundations The National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP) surveyed family foundations of all sorts for this comprehensive report on current practices across the field. The report is a great place to learn the norms among other family foundations regarding mission/legacy, governance, family involvement, grantmaking, and operations. NCFP also produces many other tremendously helpful resources for family foundations, some available for free while others requiring a subscription.
  3. Council on Foundations: Stewardship Principles for Family Foundations This document summarizes both the “Stewardship Principles” and the “Practice Options to Improve Performance” recommended by the Council’s Committee on Family Foundations. The principles capture the acknowledged ethical best practices for family foundations in their governance, management, and grantmaking, and give many specific and useful ways to implement those practices in your foundation.
  4. Exponent Philanthropy: From Generation to GenerationThe “next gen” challenge is one faced by just about every family engaged in a giving process, and there are many resources available on LearnPhilanthropy to help meet this challenge in an informed and intentional way. This article is one of several resources on this issue available from Exponent Philanthropy, a membership organization for donors using a variety of vehicles to make an outsized impact with few or no staff. (Membership required for access.)
  5. The Foundation Review: Volume 3.4 Executive Summaries: Family Foundations and PhilanthropyThis special issue of The Foundation Review (TFR) – a peer-reviewed, practitioner-oriented journal – provides a good introduction to some key current trends and debates in the family foundation universe, as well as a good outline of lessons learned from some cutting edge ventures in the field. TFR is published quarterly and often has articles with direct practical relevance to family philanthropy.


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