Coming to consensus. Agreeing to disagree. Finding a win-win solution. Whatever you call it, the art of negotiating and making decisions can be particularly tricky for families with a shared philanthropic mission but different – sometimes very different – ideas for how to achieve that mission.

Dealing with different views is challenging in any family. Beliefs, opinions, and practices can diverge in so many ways. Making collective decisions across generations and branches within family foundations – while taking into account differing politics and religions, different attitudes toward money, and varying comfort levels with how public to be about wealth and foundation gifts – often requires patience, flexibility, and compromise.

“One thing all family foundation boards have in common is disagreement. Rare is the board that never wrestles with differing points of view and even serious conflict,” writes GMA Foundations President Mary Phillips in a recent post for the Council on Foundations RE: Philanthropy blog. “A key to effective governance is addressing conflict and managing the discussion so that discord does not derail a decision. Not only can cordial disagreement be healthy, it can often lead to truly innovative grantmaking.”

Board decision-making and the role that family dynamics plays in these decisions are at the heart of much of the National Center’s work. A variety of resources in our Family Philanthropy Online Knowledge Center (see box below) provide a variety of tips, tools, and case studies of families wrestling with difficult decisions. In January, NCFP hosted a teleconference on the topic of “Finding Common Ground, Valuing Different Views,” featuring representatives from two family foundations, the Educational Foundation of America and the Roy A. Hunt Foundation. These multi-generational family foundations have worked hard to develop board procedures and decisions that honor different viewpoints, and their stories provide good examples for other families wrestling with these issues.

Read the full article about valuing different views by Jason C. Born at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.