A Family Foundation

Working as a Family Foundation

Although Diane took the lead on FACT’s strategy and operations, the other Feeney siblings, their mother, and the three other board members were a strong and supportive team. The family members lived at considerable distance from each other, but they all met at twice-yearly board meetings to discuss grants, strategy and other foundation matters. While not everyone was in agreement all the time, they found that this shared work was of great value to them as a family unit. Some of the spouses got interested and involved, but the core work of the strategy remained a family unit project.

The grant program in France was designed to recognize the family’s French heritage – their mother is French, the children had grown up partly in France, and several of them live there. The program is small – about $400,000 a year. As with the U.S. program, in France FACT funds organizations working for social and economic justice that take a multi-issue approach and believe in the power of the individual to make change. FACT’s grant making operates in the same way, with long-term funding commitments, organizational strengthening, and coalition-building. However, France’s centralized decision-making structure, and the strong tradition of protest through political parties and unions, make the environment quite different. FACT has sponsored several exchanges between French and American grantees to enable individuals from both societies to gain new perspectives on their work.

As the family members became more engaged in philanthropy, they became interested in funding personal projects that were outside the scope of the foundation’s mission. Each family member was able to give $25,000 per year for his or her own projects, an amount that was later increased to $200,000. Several of the siblings also developed interests related to FACT’s overall mission of economic justice – one focused on education, and others supported new media and communications – and additional funds were allocated for those projects. The core mission giving and the family giving remained separate.