The Council on Foundations, a nonprofit membership association of grantmaking
foundations and corporations, on March 4th released its three-part 2010
Foundation Management Series, which provides a view of governance practices and
administrative expenses. The findings enable foundations to benchmark their
practices against peer organizations in the field.
More than 500 foundations provided information, on their boards’
demographics, compensation and reimbursement practices, ethics and diversity
policies, and fiscal and administrative activities through 2009, the most recent
date for which the data is available.
The Management Series comprises three reports: “Board Composition and
Compensation,” “Administrative and Investment Expenses,” and “Fiscal Oversight.”
- The median number of board members is 12. Community foundations
indicated the most (16), and family foundations the fewest (7).
- Three-quarters of board members (74%) are over age 50, followed by 18%
who are age 40-49. Family foundations reported the largest share of board
members under age 40 (16%).
- The majority of board membership is male (nearly 62%). A significant
majority of board members are white (85%), with African-Americans making up
7%, Hispanics 4%, and Asian/Pacific Islanders 2%.
- Survey participants were asked to share, to the best of their knowledge,
how many of their board members are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Sixteen percent reported having at least one LGBT board member.
- Twenty-nine percent reported that their foundations have a written
policy on board diversity.
- Most foundations do not pay their board members (76%).
- Among respondents who do compensate their board members, most (65%)
provide all board members with fixed fees, such as annual, committee-based,
or per-board-meeting fees.
- The median amount of compensation paid to the board as a whole is
- The median annual fee for board chairs is $18,000 ($10,000 for other
board members), the median board meeting fee is $1,000, and the median
committee meeting fee is $650.
- For other board members, the median annual fee is $10,000, and the
median board meeting fee is $1,000.
Administrative and Investment Expenses:
- Among 234 staffed independent and family foundation respondents,
administrative expenses represent a median 15.8% share of qualifying
charitable distributions. Qualifying distributions include all expenses that
qualify toward meeting the IRS payout requirement for foundations.
- Larger foundations reported lower expense ratios due to economies of
- Median investment expenses total 0.6%of net noncharitable use assets for
independent and family foundations.
- For community foundation respondents, program expenses represent a
median 12.4% share of their overall qualifying distributions.
- Nearly all foundations used independent accounting firms in 2009, and
nearly three out of five require full board approval for the use of such
- Only one-third of foundations strengthened their internal management
controls in 2009 based in the findings of their 2008 audit. Most took no
action or made no changes to policies and practices.
- Nearly nine out of 10 foundations provide directors and officers
The Foundation Management Survey included responses from independent and
family, community, and public foundations of various asset and giving levels.
Survey participants included Council on Foundations members and nonmembers. For
further information see www.cof.org.
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