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Funders’ boards skew white, male, over 50

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Members of foundation boards are predominantly white, male and over age 50, and they do not receive compensation for their board work, a new survey says.

Eighty-five percent of board members at over 500 foundations responding to a survey by the Council on Foundations are white, 62 percent are male, and 74 percent are over age 50, with 19 percent age 40 to 49.

At family foundations, 16 percent of board members are under age 40, representing the largest share of board members that age among all foundations, says the survey.

The three-part 2010 Foundation Management Series survey looks at board composition and compensation; administrative and investment expenses, and fiscal oversight.

“These are important considerations for foundations working to more effectively advance their mission and better serve those in need,” Steven Gunderson, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations, says in a statement.

African Americans represent 7 percent of all board members, while Hispanics present 4 percent and Asian/Pacific Islanders represent 2 percent.

Sixteen percent of survey participants say that, to the best of their knowledge, at least one member of their board is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

And 29 percent say their foundations have a written policy on diversity.

Seventy-six percent of foundations do not pay their board members, while 65 percent of foundations that do provide compensation provide all board members with fixed fees, such as annual, committee-based or per-board-meeting fees.

The median compensation paid to the board as a whole is $50,750, with board chairs getting a median annual fee of $18,000, and other board members getting $10,000.

The median fee for a board meeting is $1,000, and the median fee for a committee meeting is $650.

At 234 staffed independent and family foundations that responded to the survey, administrative expenses represent 15.8 percent of “qualifying charitable distributions,” which include all expenses that count toward meeting the IRS payout requirement for foundations.

Nearly all foundations used independent accounting firms in 2009, and nearly three in five require full board approval for the use of such firms.

One -third of foundations strengthened internal management controls in 2009 based on the findings of their 2008 audit, and most took no action or made no changes to policies and practices.

Nearly nine in 10 foundations provide directors and officers liability insurance.

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