Some high net-worth donors, and families, set up private family foundations. Although some private foundations are large and well known (the Rockefeller Foundation, for example), with matching staffs, most of the approximately eighty thousand private foundations are unstaffed, and two thirds of them have less than $1 million in assets.*
Private foundations are tax-exempt, nonprofit entities that provide grants to charitable organizations and causes. These foundations adhere to the wishes of the donors and their families; and they must disburse a minimum of 5% of their endowment income annually.
Even unstaffed private foundations have formal structures and boards of directors or trustees. These boards often use outside advisers and can outsource much of the foundation's administrative work.
Associations that serve private foundations include:
- The Association of Small Foundations
- The Council on Foundations
- Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
- The National Center for Family Philanthropy
- The Philanthropy Roundtable
*See Chapter 15 of Money Well Spent, by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey, Bloomberg Press, 2008.