The National Center for Family Philanthropy enlisted the Urban Institute to design and survey a nationally representative sample of family foundations.
The majority of family foundations are relatively small in size and young in age. Nearly 70 percent of family foundations were created after 1990. Seventy percent have less than $10 million in total assets; 3 percent have assets of $200 million or more.
Most family foundation boards are composed of first- and second-generation family members. As the age of the foundation increases, the share of third- and fourth-generation family board members increases. However, on average, less than 10 percent of foundation boards have a majority of third- and fourth-generation family members.
Regardless of age or size, family foundations that are engaging their younger members believe younger generations bring new ideas and vibrancy to the foundation. Forty percent say younger family members have moved away from the foundation’s geographic location. Forty percent also say the younger generation is interested in different issues than the older generation.
Most family foundations (62 percent) had recent payout rates between 5 (the minimum legal requirement) and 6 percent of corpus. Roughly 30 percent had payout rates above 6 percent. Half of these (15 percent) gave more than 10 percent of corpus.
Though the average family foundation does not currently have a strategy for assessing the impact of its own giving, roughly half of the oldest (48 percent) and youngest (56 percent) family foundations are exploring how to assess their impact.
The survey is based on a nationally representative sample of 2,500 family foundations drawn from the Foundation Center’s family foundation database. To be eligible, a foundation had to have assets of at least $2 million and annual giving of at least $100,000. The sample was stratified by foundation asset and giving levels and had an oversample of large foundations. This mixed-mode survey (conducted by mail, web, and phone) collected data from April to June 2015. In total, 341 family foundations answered the survey, yielding a 17 percent response rate. Forty-seven percent of the respondents were founders; less than 15 percent were paid staff. During analysis, sample weights were applied to the data to account for possible nonresponse bias. The weights were also adjusted for slightly lower response rates among small family foundations and for an oversample of large foundations.
The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. Its Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy analyzes the role, trends, and impact of nonprofit organizations and philanthropy.
The Trends in Family Philanthropy’s National Advisory Committee is tasked with guiding this national research initiative to identify (1) emerging issues, (2) changes in funding priorities, (3) innovative approaches to giving and decisionmaking, and (4) anticipated giving patterns among philanthropic families. Members of the committee will also suggest ways to use the survey results to better understand the implications of this new knowledge and to stimulate discussions, additional research, and action throughout the field resulting from those implications.
We offer very special thanks to our project funders:
William Penn Foundation
The Nord Family Foundation
The Stocker Foundation
The Leighty Foundation