General News

Survey for Family Foundation Trustees Now Open

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Family foundations help families to translate their deeply held values into philanthropic action.  While family foundations exist to make a social impact, another important set of purposes relates to the family behind the foundation.  Families may view the foundation of which they are trustees as a mechanism to transmit charitable values to the next generation, to bring family members from different geographies together, to create opportunities for family members to work together outside of a business setting, or to strengthen family ties.  Each of these family purposes could be as important to the family as making a social impact.

Researchers at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy are currently conducting research on family foundation purposes, structure and function.  The purpose of their study is to explore the dual purposes of family foundations—fulfilling a philanthropic mission and fulfilling family goals, such as passing along family values or creating opportunities for families to work together to put those values into action.  If you are a family foundation board member, please consider completing the survey to help us gain a better understanding of family foundation purposes.  All surveys will be confidential.  Although the researchers will request contact information if you are interested in participating in an interview, you may choose not to provide any identifying information if you wish.  Any identifying information will be destroyed at the conclusion of the study.  Family foundation trustees are encouraged to complete the survey online at the following link:

Family foundation trustees may also complete the survey by phone, internet chat, or in paper form; if you would like to complete the survey by any of these means, please forward an e-mail to Joseph Palus, a doctoral candidate in Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University who is participating in conducting the research, at  The survey should take no more than ten (10) to fifteen (15) minutes to complete.  THANK YOU!  If you have any questions or concerns prior to, during, or after completing the survey, please contact Joseph Palus at or 317-966-3002.

This survey is intended to explore how family foundation trustees balance family purposes with efforts to make a social impact.  The researchers are exploring how trustees from different foundations perceive the balance between these and what implications this difference has for governance, grantmaking and engagement in networks.  Trustees may also find reflection on these questions useful in their own work for the foundation they serve.

Overviews of our findings (with all identifying information removed) will be made available to the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, the Council of Michigan Foundations and the National Center for Family Philanthropy.  

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