3 Tips for managing a family foundation

家族基金会治理实用三招

Source: China Development Brief

The piece is a contribution by the Chen Yixin Family Foundation, and concerns the question of how best to maintain the legacy and ethics of family foundations as they are passed down from generation to generation.

Based in Hong Kong, the Chen Yixin Family Foundation was set up to continue the philanthropic activities of the late Hong Kong businessman Chen Yixin, who began charitable work in China after a visit to his hometown in Jiangsu in the 1980s. With the bulk of its work in China, the Foundation has helped improve the literacy rates of Chinese children over the years through developing libraries and promoting reading schemes for children. The article explores how the management practices of the Foundation have ensured its mainland activities’ continued success despite the absence of an office there.

Clear Management Guidelines

The Foundation has a guidebook laying out clearly how the Foundation should be run. This includes the organizational structure, standard operating procedures, staff members’ roles and responsibilities, and even standard rubrics to evaluate the events and activities proposed by NGOs. The clarity of the Foundation’s requirements and operating procedures when coupled with the meticulousness of staff members when visiting event sites ensures that operations run smoothly.

Diversity of Talent

Apart from the position of the Chairman, which will always be held by a Chen, and the minimum quota of four family members on the board, the Foundation draws upon a pool of experienced researchers and professionals, who bring different perspectives to the table. The minimum quota exists only to guard against the family losing control of the Foundation.

Maintaining Close Ties with Partners

The Foundation views NGOs not as mere grant-seekers but as partners in philanthropy. As such, the Foundation is willing to shoulder greater risks than usual in encouraging NGO to be more innovative in the way they plan and carry out their activities. Besides this, the Foundation is willing to invest money in professional teams and consultants for capacity-building activities for NGOs. It also helps grassroots NGOs to engage with a wider audience. Lastly, the Foundation also engages in an active dialogue with other foundations in Hong Kong, sharing its experiences and best practices to help them expand their operations in China.

Translated by Ming Lee

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