Change isn’t easy. Whether it’s a family business or the family foundation, a change of leadership can expose vulnerabilities, bring long-simmering controversies to the surface, and endanger stability—even as it brings a fresh perspective and perhaps even badly needed improvements. Family foundations carry with them many of the same interpersonal dynamics found in family-owned businesses, that unfortunately often do not survive as they pass from generation to generation. While for-profit companies and nonprofit private foundations are different kinds of entities, each can be impacted, positively or negatively, by how well changes in leadership are managed.
François de la Rochefoucauld famously noted, “the only thing constant in life is change,” and well-run foundations must plan for this inevitability. This paper explores how private foundations can plan for changes in leadership in order to weather the transition as a cohesive, effective unit.