A 50-year-old foundation requests an independent review of operations.


Has the foundation kept up with changes in the law and professional best practices, including changes in computing and the internet?


Foundations typically adopt operating procedures in a piecemeal fashion, over time, as conditions seem to require.  This can result in a complex web of systems that aren’t efficient and that sometimes ignore important areas of risk and accountability.

One of our clients was a 50-year-old, private foundation run largely by a prestigious law firm.  The trustees were meeting the annual payout requirements, but had not given much attention to its operational and administrative practices.  The foundation heard about our work for another client and contacted us to conduct a review of its operations and grantmaking procedures.

We reviewed the entire history of the foundation, including looking at all the board meeting minutes and sampling 50 years of grant files.  In our review, we looked for ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs.  Moreover, we looked for ways the foundation might reduce risk and improve accountability.

During the three-month review, we found that the foundation’s operational practices were outdated and inefficient.  The industry standards for professionalism and regulations have changed significantly over the years, and the foundation hadn’t kept up with these changes.  In the end, we produced a 50-page report with a number of recommendations.

The client was both surprised and pleased by our review and resulting recommendations.  As a result, we were hired to work with the firm’s paralegal staff to implement the many recommendations.

For example, we recommended that the foundation adopt a formal investment and spending policy, implement the use of grant contracts, and require better financial reporting on its grants.  We also noted the benefits of implementing a low-cost database and a basic website to save staff time.  Additional recommendations included providing direction on due diligence and tools for meeting the federal anti-terrorism reporting requirements.


The foundation was pleased with our review.  They agreed that our suggestions enhanced efficiency, improved effectiveness, and saved costs while managing legal and regulatory risks.

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