Governing and managing a family foundation is as much art, values, and even feelings, as it is science. It doesn’t even have to be particularly difficult science. Jaylee Mead, co-founder of the Gilbert and Jaylee Mead Foundation and former Research Astronomer at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, once remarked that creating that foundation wasn’t “rocket science.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It is easier for a C+ organization to become a B+ organization than it is for a B+ organization to stay that way.

In fact, it is highly unlikely that you and your family will ever find the permanent, perfect strategy for achieving your philanthropic goals. Even your goals may change over time, as do the families that create and oversee them.

Improvement is usually an easier endeavor than ensuring ongoing vitality. How does the boldness you summoned up for taking risks and solving problems support you once you’ve experienced success? How do you resist going into “protect mode” – trying too hard to hold onto what you have accomplished? How do families who have achieved excellence in giving maintain the quality of that giving over time? How do they continue to meet the high standards you’ve set for management, finance, communications, and community relationships?

How does the “B+” or even the “A+” organization stay that way, vigorously committed to the revitalizing promise of renewal? And what can members of newer family foundations learn from those who have successfully been meeting these challenges?

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Virginia Esposito writes for the National Center for Family Philanthropy.