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5 Trends to Watch in Family Foundations

Several trends in family foundations are developing rapidly.

For many in the philanthropy world, private family foundations are an assumed part of life.

But they didn’t always occupy such a key role in American philanthropy, and these foundations will continue to evolve.

In an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Virginia Esposito of the National Center for Family Philanthropy noted a number of things she sees going forward for family foundations.

I see five key trends that are worth keeping an eye on.


Changes in family foundations: goals, boards, giving options

  • Family foundations are not forever.

Foundations always used to be viewed as operating in perpetuity.

However, some foundations are now definitely seeing themselves as being set up for a limited purpose and limited time.


  • They’re not just local anymore.

It used to be that foundations focused on local community as first priority.

But increasingly, foundations are focusing on problems with a national and even global scope.


  • Boards are opening to younger members.

It used to be that foundation boards were made up of senior family members.

More foundations are now recognizing the benefits of opening up the doors to include the younger generation.


  • Giving options have multiplied.

Foundations used to give only through their own structure.

Now they are using multiple structures, including donor advised funds, LLCs, and supporting organizations.


  • Impact investing is on the rise.

While Esposito didn’t mention this one, foundations are increasingly considering and pursuing impact investing—making a difference, a social impact, with their investment choices.


Giving as a family is a powerful practice with potential to solve some of the world’s great problems, whether for ultra high net worth donors or for those with more modest means.

I expect to see these and other trends continue to develop in the rapidly evolving world of philanthropy, as families consider the direction and impact of their giving.


Related posts:
Private Foundations and Donor Advised Funds: 5 Key Comparisons
8 Key Facts on Charitable Giving
Since 1914? Donor Advised Funds—An Old New Trend in Giving

Photo by Xavier Lee on Unsplash

About Bill High

Bill is CEO of the Signatry: A Global Christian Foundation. He works with families, individual givers, and financial advisers to share the foundation’s message regarding biblical generosity and charitable giving. » Learn More. He is the co-author with David Green of Giving It All Away and Getting It All Back Again: The Way of Living Generously.

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