Family foundations are an unique and organic enterprises. They come in all shapes and sizes. I have spoken to family foundation directors who share that the grants are awarded based on the board’s assessment of a proposal’s fit with the mission. I have seen other foundations that agree on the total sum to be distributed and then allow each family member to direct an equal share towards their favorite causes. Some foundations come very close to the self-dealing threshold where a member of the foundation’s board benefits from a grant by receiving tangible value in recognition of a grant.
Family foundation’s at there best are a shared experience center on achieving a philanthropic intent. The purpose of the foundation unites the family and the outside directors.
Whatever model you are seeking funding from it is essential to understand the foundation’s (and sometimes family’s) level of functionality. Grantees need to peek behind the curtain to see if the wizard is real or imagined. Be willing to ask questions. Search for information on Guidestar, the Foundation Center, or the Council on Foundations. Ask past grant recipients about their experience. Communicate directly with a family member or staff member. Talk to your local community foundation or nonprofit center to get guidance. Engage in a dialogue, be informed, and connect. No two family foundations are the same so enjoy the exploration.