News and analysis
October 27, 2015

Almost Half of Private Grant Makers Pay Board Members, Study Finds

Title: Benchmarking Foundation Governance

Organization: Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Summary: Nearly half of private grant makers compensate all their board members, and another 7 percent compensate some but not all of those who serve on their boards.

The survey of foundation executives also found that boards lack members with expertise in technology, marketing, and communications.

The findings, which covered a range of governance issues, were based on responses from 64 private funds that grant at least $10 million a year. Of those surveyed, 49 percent said their boards had at least one member with experience in technology, 54 percent had at least one member with experience in sales, and 60 percent reported having a member with experience in communications. Of those surveyed, 95 percent said their foundation’s board included at least one member with expertise in investing, and the same percentage reported having a member with finance and program-related expertise

Among the findings:

  • On average, boards have 10 members, six of whom are male.
  • The foundation’s original donor serves on 22 percent of the boards surveyed.
  • Thirty-nine percent of the grant makers allow board members to make discretionary grants with little or no staff involvement.
  • More than half (59 percent) of boards allow staff members to make grants below a certain amount; the median amount at those foundations is $125,000.
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of those surveyed do not have term limits for service on the board.

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