What is a Family Foundation?

Image of Family in Clip Art

Here at the Jack Kagan Foundation we are proud to operate as a family foundation.

To honor the life of our father, our family wanted to ensure that the causes he was most passionate about are supported financially. To achieve this goal, we established a family foundation to provide grants to proven, effective charitable organizations that focus on our core mission areas.

Establishing a family foundation has enabled us to preserve and extend the legacy of Jack Kagan for years to come. But we also understand that our donors and supporters may have some trouble understanding what a family foundation does and how we operate. Here’s a breakdown to help answer some of your questions about family foundations, and information about how you can start your own foundation.

What is a family foundation?

A family foundation is a type of private foundation. ‘Private foundation’ is an umbrella term that includes corporate, independent, and some other foundations. These independent legal entities can then create grants from their various charitable endowments or trusts – essentially pools of donated money that provide a stream of income for long-term charitable purposes.

Family foundations are generally non-operational, meaning they do not themselves run programs or provide services. Instead, they govern the established pool of money and make disbursements or grants based on their own specific by-laws. Operational foundations, whether private or public, work to meet their mission through running active programs and services, employing people and volunteers to deliver and manage the organization.

A family foundation, specifically, is funded with the family’s assets and often run by family members who participate in its charitable grantmaking. In our case, Jack Kagan specified that his remaining assets be used to establish a charitable trust foundation in his name, to be governed by his children as the Trustees. A family governance system is needed to manage priorities, grant recommendations, and foundation goals.

What does a family foundation do?

Private family foundations achieve family giving goals and jumpstart multi-generational giving. At JKF, our main goal is to promote specific philanthropic causes including children, medicine, veterans, and the community. We conduct rigorous stewardship of all grants, donations, and gifts.

How do you start a family foundation?

It is relatively simple to establish the entity of a family foundation. The IRS has a complete set of steps and rules to follow, including the required rates of giving each year. We filed the necessary documents with the IRS to establish The Jack Kagan Foundation with Jack’s estate and assets forming the trust. His surviving children serve as Trustees – governing the mission, priorities, and making grant decisions. We retain an attorney to ensure our legal compliance, a CPA as necessary for tax purposes, with all other time spent on foundation business volunteered by the family.


The Jack Kagan Foundation was established as a private family foundation to continue and expand the philanthropic work that Jack Kagan himself conducted during his lifetime. He focused on helping others in need through organizations that had proven success.

To learn more about the Jack Kagan Foundation and to support our family foundation’s efforts, click here.