Services We Offer
Our starting point is always to understand as much as we can about a foundation’s history and the philanthropic objectives of its trustees. These individual elements of a foundation’s own identity, unique to each foundation, provide the context in which we perform all of our work for our foundation clients.
Our clients often ask for the benefit of our experience as they evaluate grant requests. For example: Is the applicant’s budget realistic? How strong is the organization in terms of its board, its professional leadership, and its finances? What additional issues, if any, need to be addressed before the foundation makes its decision to fund or not to fund a particular program or project? Are there alternatives that the applicant might explore that could enhance the plan that it has presented?
A partial evaluation can be based on available information. A more detailed evaluation often requires meeting with senior management. Experience demonstrates that, through an interchange with senior management of an applicant organization, a foundation’s recommendations can be extremely valuable to the applicant.
On occasion our clients also tell us that they would like to provide support to an organization doing a particular kind of charitable work and ask us to identify organizations that are doing highly effective work in that area. For example, a client might wish to provide support to an after-school program in an impoverished location in or near the local community or to a program that benefits returning war veterans. Following conversations with our client to put its objective into sharper focus, we identify such organizations and explain what it is about those organizations that in our judgment makes them worthwhile candidates for receipt of the foundation’s support.
At the request of our clients, we facilitate the grantmaking process by helping them formulate the terms and conditions of grants that will be made and by structuring agreements in a way that enhances the achievement of our clients’ objectives.
At a client’s request, we also evaluate prospective grants to be sure that they are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Clients frequently ask us for help in their development and implementation of easily employed techniques through which the effectiveness of previously made grants can be evaluated. Also at a client’s request, we will undertake communication with grantees to accomplish postgrant evaluations and document these evaluations for the client’s files.
Administrative and Management Support
We assist officers and trustees in defining the qualifications they seek in a manager or administrator and in carrying out the interviewing process. Once the individual is employed, we provide her or him with ongoing guidance, supervision, and direction. This includes regular in-person meetings, usually once or twice each month. It also includes telephone and e- mail communications on an as-needed basis.
In providing oversight to the work that administrators and managers perform, we take steps to ensure that the foundation is pursuing its activities in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards of professionalism.
Board and Committee Meeting Assistance
Officers and trustees of many foundations, particularly smaller foundations, regard compliance with the formalities of documenting board meetings to be burdensome. We relieve them of these responsibilities.
For example, we consult with officers and trustees in advance of board meetings to help them implement steps to accomplish their goals at meetings. We prepare notices of meetings and agendas for board and committee meetings, create notebooks for each board member that contain materials relevant to matters to be discussed, attend board meetings and provide the trustees with experienced support as issues are raised, ensure compliance with requirements set forth in the foundation’s charter and bylaws, and prepare minutes of board meetings. We ensure that financial reports, information regarding prospective grants, and other materials to be considered at board meetings are compiled in a timely fashion for the trustees’ use.
Trustee Succession and Translation of Complex Rules
We are highly experienced in explaining foundation rules to new trustees as they assume their foundation responsibilities and in facilitating their integration into foundation boards. In doing so, we translate complex applicable statutes and regulations into clear, understandable English.
Trustees of many family foundations see those foundations as vehicles through which the tradition of family philanthropy can be continued, and they wish to bring the next generation of family members onto the foundation boards of trustees as their family members become adults. We provide mentoring to strengthen the process of their involvement.
Policy Facilitation, Mission Statements, Strategic Plans, and Retreats
Foundations often decide to adopt new policies, to formulate mission statements and strategic and long-term plans, and to have periodic trustee retreats. We assist them in these efforts.
Statutory and Regulatory Compliance
On account of their complexity, the rules that apply to foundation activity are frequently misunderstood. We provide our foundation clients with practical support designed to ensure that they will be in compliance with the rules. We also help our clients establish easy-to-follow compliance procedures.
Transparency and Accountability
The trend in the foundation world is toward increasing transparency, not only in regard to investments and grants but also in regard to how decisions are made and to governance. There is an ongoing national focus on foundation accountability. We work with foundation representatives to help them meet and even exceed current standards of transparency and accountability.
International Grants and Grants to Nonpublic US Charities and Expenditure Responsibility
Foundations are obligated to exercise “expenditure responsibility” in regard to domestic grants to organizations that are not designated as Section 501(c)(3) “public charities,” and in regard to most international grants as well. We prepare the documentation needed so that our foundation clients are in compliance with their expenditure responsibility requirements.
When Differences Arise
Foundation trustees often have different views about how the foundation’s assets should be invested and distributed. The differences sometimes lead to outbursts of temper and acrimony among board members. We are highly experienced in working with trustees toward resolution of their differences and toward implementation of procedures that are likely to make for a calmer environment.
Assistance in Mergers and Separations and Implementation of Sunset Provisions
A family foundation sometimes decides that separating the foundation into two or more foundations is in the best interest of the family. A foundation may wish to pursue a merger with another foundation or to spend down its endowment and thereby terminate its existence over a period of a few years. We are experienced in helping foundation trustees implement their decisions in these areas.
Helping Grantee Organizations
Various foundations have provided grantee organizations with funds to enable them to receive our help in resolving problems and in developing programs to better accomplish their charitable objectives. Here are examples of ways in which we have provided help at a foundation’s behest to its grantee organizations:
- Repairing strained relationships between board members and senior staff members
- Helping trustees and senior staff understand and respect the line between their respective responsibilities
- Helping organizations formulate programs to strengthen their boards
- Enhancing an organization’s effectiveness in communicating with its donors and other constituencies
- Assisting grantee organizations in their efforts to attain leverage from grants that they receive
- Helping organizations formulate priorities so that they are able to proceed with balanced budgets
- Assisting board members and senior staff in the planning and implementation of mergers between nonprofit organizations
- Helping organizations build compelling case statements that board members and senior staff can follow to support annual giving programs and fundraising campaigns
- Assisting organizations in the formulation of realistic plans for their future activities
Investment Advisor Selection Process
Clients sometimes ask for our help in identifying experienced independent investment advisors who can work with the trustees or a committee of trustees so that a sound diversified investment program can be established and maintained.
Attorney and Accountant Liaison
At a client’s request, we will maintain periodic communication with its lawyers and accountants to ensure that they are kept apprised of the foundation’s relevant activities and needs in the context of current rules within which foundations must operate. These communications are likely to be more productive and less time-consuming than if initiated and pursued by a board member without the extensive experience that we can bring to these communications.
We are available to provide ongoing advice to trustees on a retainer basis, through regular in-person meetings, on the telephone, and by e-mail. In this way, we are able to answer questions as they arise and give assistance as needed to family foundation trustees. This is particularly useful to foundations that do not employ experienced executive directors.