Founding a Foundation

What do you want your foundation to do? 

By Colette Powers 

How does your family want to leave its mark?

The option of creating a private foundation offers families a flexible vehicle to help important causes and affect positive change in the world. This can be rewarding for a family and help create a legacy that can continue long after the family members are gone.

Narrowing down options to one cause can be a challenge. It’s important for families to take time, come together and think about what they’d like their wealth to do.

There are many details to consider. What do you want to accomplish? What change would you like to help facilitate? What are some of the toughest problems the world is facing? What is your family’s strength? What do you want to be remembered for?

Creating a mission statement can help ensure the foundation’s priorities are adhered to. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy document; actually, too many details could limit the foundation’s ability to grow and adapt as it evolves. A concise statement summarizing the foundation’s goals will suffice.

Another way to help define your foundation’s focus is to examine practices of other local private foundations, community foundations and nonprofit organizations. What is their focus and why? Is there a need in the community that these entities feel is not being met? What are their successes?

Having conversations with universities and local colleges can be helpful, too.

These organizations can usually provide a perspective beyond the local community and may offer ideas to help impact more global issues. Connecting with outside organizations and perhaps other experts may help a family better understand how their mission could be molded to have a greater impact locally and globally.

Another option is to partner with other private foundations. Finding a private foundation with a similar scope and combining research, money and capabilities can lead to greater impact than if one single foundation worked alone. Potential partner foundations may be found by attending conferences or exploring like-minded associations.

Sometimes foundations create a charity they wish to support. This allows the charity to receive funds from other foundations and organizations to help further support their cause. However, starting and managing a charity organization can be time-consuming, expensive and difficult. An alternative approach might be to find an existing charity with similar goals to support through your foundation. This will allow you to stay focused on the foundation’s goals while still making an impact.

This may all seem overwhelming, but remember a first important step: just do it. Don’t let the process of defining the foundation’s mission slow you down. Too many times, families get stuck in the foundation’s development and delay its creation.

Remember that creating a foundation is a work in progress. Mistakes will happen and the mission can expand or change. Part of the fun is discovering what you want to do and coming together as a family to make a difference in the world. SWM

Colette Powers is a Financial Advisor with UBS Financial Services Inc., 440 S. Warren St., Syracuse, NY 13202. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment, tax or legal advice. Investing involves risks and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest. The information provided may be deemed reliable; however, the accuracy and completeness is not guaranteed by UBS Financial Services Inc. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of UBS Financial Services Inc. As a firm providing wealth management services to clients, we offer both investment advisory and brokerage services. These services are separate and distinct, differ in material ways and are governed by different laws and separate contracts. For more information on the distinctions between our brokerage and investment advisory services, please speak with your Financial Advisor or visit our website at

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.