How Private Foundations Can Be Proactive in Summer
3. Cultivate your board. Summer can be the perfect time to fill gaps on the foundation’s board, possibly looking beyond the family to recruit new members with requisite expertise. Board member selection is about identifying someone in your extended network who you want to bring into the fold. It requires trust and a strong rapport. Donors can use the slower summer months to schedule a golf outing or meet for coffee to get to know possible candidates and gauge their interest. This article discusses factors to consider when considering non-family members for board service and best practices to ensure their effective involvement once elected.
4. Focus on compliance. IRS regulations pertaining to private foundations are often complicated and sometimes gray. Foundations that aren’t aware of the rules or don’t follow them properly expose themselves to risk. Donors can take advantage of this slow time to ensure that their foundations are compliant with ever-changing rules and regulations. Foundation Source offers a quick and easy compliance assessment tool designed to flag activities that can subject a foundation, its managers and contributors to possible penalties. Another relevant read is this paper: 10 Rules Every Foundation Should Know About Compliance.
5. Ask the big questions. Reflect on the strategic direction of the foundation and evaluate its impact by asking questions such as, “What could we be doing differently?” and, “Is it time to develop a more focused mission?” We encourage our clients to set at least one ambitious goal at the beginning of the year, such as learning about a new issue area or expanding one’s circle of grantees. In summer we have the chance to revisit those goals and determine what needs to happen in order to achieve them. This Foundation Source article offers insights into how foundations can articulate their missions, and this article outlines 10 things you didn't know you could do with a private foundation.
6. Make some grants! Just because summer is traditionally a slower time of year for grant making does not mean foundations can’t be more active. In the same manner that we might pay estimated taxes each year to avoid lump payments at year-end, donors should consider pacing grant making throughout the year. There are plenty of worthy nonprofits with constituents that need help year-round that would appreciate receiving support well in advance of the holiday giving season.
John Oddy is senior philanthropic director with Foundation Source in Fairfield, CT. Based in New York, John works directly with private foundations, their donors and families. Before coming to Foundation Source, John was Executive Director of The Royal Oak Foundation, a U.S. charity supporting the National Trust of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Prior to that, he was Program Officer at the Getty Grant Program, the philanthropic arm of the J. Paul Getty Trust, supporting conservation of significant art and architecture internationally. John studied Art History as an undergraduate at Bard College and Urban Planning at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Elizabeth Wong is philanthropic director with Foundation Source. Based in Seattle, Elizabeth works with West Coast private foundations, their donors and families. From 2010 to 2014, she managed her own philanthropic consultancy, working with foundations and public charities in the areas of strategic planning, organizational development, governance, nonprofit management, and executive coaching. Earlier in her career, Elizabeth was a senior program officer at the Gates Foundation.