Key Points

· This article, based on interviews with leaders of 10 family foundations, investigates the impact of geographic dispersion on governance, administration, decision making, and grantmaking activities.

· The greatest challenges for family foundations with dispersed boards involve assembling an appropriate staff, ensuring strong communication between staff and board members, and focusing the organization’s mission. Maintaining family board member interest in the foundation’s geographic area and bridging and strengthening ties between generations were also concerns.

· In order to maintain family legacies, all case-study foundations found unique ways to overcome challenges and were deliberate in ensuring that board members stayed actively engaged in the work of the foundation.

· Common strategies for keeping board members involved include providing flexible but clear direction to nonfamily staff, developing stepping stone board positions for successive generations, and balancing the mission with the desire to build family ties.

Open Access