Answers to Common Questions about What We Do
If you have questions about what we do, chances are someone else has had them too. If you don’t see the information you’re looking for below, please reach out to our team.
What does PFS do?
We provide private foundations with the expertise and infrastructure of a professional staff without the expense of hiring or adding to their existing headcount. Our teams and services are tailored to meet the needs of each foundation and include everything from strategic advice and board support to grantmaking, compliance, and financial management.
Is PFS a foundation?
No. Pacific Foundation Services is a for-profit professional services firm that supports the grantmaking work of private foundations. However, all of our clients are nonprofit, and the organizations they support are also nonprofit.
Who are your staff? What experience do they have?
We have a small but growing staff with diverse experiences across the philanthropy sector and beyond. They are foundation leaders, program managers, finance experts, and top-notch administrators. We train as generalists, applying best practices to meet client needs and optimize impact for nonprofit partners.. Because our aim is to foster long-term engagements with clients, our staff also develop deep subject matter knowledge in a variety of funding areas and stay up-to-date on industry standards. We love working together to make the most of our collective expertise and support both the foundations we partner with and the nonprofit community.
Do you work with nonprofits?
We don’t provide professional services for nonprofits, but we do help them navigate grant application and reporting processes on behalf of our client foundations.
What are the sources of your clients’ endowments?
In most cases, their endowment assets have come from an accumulation of wealth in a family, either from a single liquidity event (sale of a company or inheritance) or from a successful career in business or investments. Many of our current clients were the wealth creators, while others are on the second, third, fourth, or fifth generation of stewarding foundation assets.
What types of foundations do you typically work with?
We work with families and private foundations of all sizes and experience levels. We can help you streamline your current operations to reduce overhead and maximize impact or help you navigate the process of establishing a charitable organization. Our current client list includes foundations formed as far back as 1917 and as recently as 2017.
Our foundation has some unique requirements. Can you customize your services for us?
Yes. We customize our services and teams based on your foundation’s needs, requirements, and stage of growth. We’re adept at navigating organizational dynamics, complicated distribution requirements, and identifying ways to streamline and evolve your giving strategies. Learn more about how we can customize our professional services to support your foundation.
My family is interested in starting a foundation; can you help us?
Yes. We love working with individuals and families to identify their values, honor family legacies, and shepherd long-term giving strategies. We’ve seen successful multi-generational giving strategies deepen relationships between family members, instill a tradition of philanthropy in younger generations, and advance social causes through extended partnerships.
Will you manage our foundation assets?
No, we do not manage endowment assets. We do work closely with wealth managers to oversee foundation finances, including budgeting, managing cash, producing monthly financial statements, and managing audits. While we don’t manage our clients’ investments, we can provide industry insight and thought-partnership on how to pursue impact investing as part of your overall philanthropic strategy and goals. Learn about our full suite of foundation management services.
Do you provide legal services or legal advice?
No, we do not provide any formal legal advice, but we work closely with a number of outstanding attorneys that specialize in foundations. While we are not lawyers, we can provide guidance on legal matters based on our many years of experience in the field.
Do you provide accounting, audit, or tax services?
We provide our foundation clients with everything from bookkeeping to full-stop investment accounting, but we do not prepare foundation tax returns or 990-PF forms. We can oversee the entire audit process, but we do not perform audits (because it is our work that gets audited).
Our foundation currently works with another firm that provides accounting and financial services. Can I still partner with PFS for grantmaking and giving program support?
Yes. We customize our teams and services to support the needs of each client foundation. Sometimes, that means we exclusively support a foundation’s giving strategy and facilitate grantmaking. Learn more about our giving management services.
Can we use your offices for meetings with grantees and financial advisors?
Absolutely. When you work with us, our offices are your offices. Clients can book conference rooms in any of our three Bay Area office locations.
Our foundation doesn’t currently have a web presence. Can we still work with you?
Yes. However, we encourage all of our clients to be as transparent as possible about their grantmaking priorities, and websites can be an effective tool for that purpose. For example, if a foundation chooses not to accept unsolicited proposals, we encourage them to publicize that fact. This approach minimizes wasted effort by grantseekers. While we do not develop websites in-house, we often partner with our clients and engage the necessary expertise to develop or update a foundation’s web presence.
How will you staff the team that supports my foundation?
We handpick and assemble expert teams from our staff of talented professionals based on the specific needs of each client foundation. Before assigning staff members, we consider foundation guidelines, staff program expertise, and the expected work flow of your foundation. Learn more about how we can tailor our professional services to support your needs.
How do you charge for your services?
Our fees are negotiated annual rates based on factors including scope of work, foundation asset size, grantmaking budget, number of grants, frequency of board meetings, complexity of investments, and grantmaking duties. Once we agree on a scope of work and a fair and reasonable fee, we tie that fee to a cost-of-living index. We do not bill by the hour.
Do you help raise money for client foundations?
No. None of our clients actively fundraise, and we are not equipped to manage an active fundraising effort. However, we can process any gifts your foundation receives. Learn more about our foundation management services.
Do your clients combine assets or collaborate on causes?
All of the foundations we work with are independent of each other. We do not combine their assets, but we do encourage our clients to collaborate on promising opportunities if their missions are in alignment. If you’re interested in supporting a particular cause or community, we’ll connect you with members of our staff who have relevant expertise and experience and foundations pursuing similar missions within our client network. We’re always on the lookout for ways to strengthen social impact by igniting strategic connections within our philanthropic community.
Can my nonprofit submit a grant request to PFS for consideration by your clients?
We would love to learn more about your organization so that we can identify how your mission aligns with our clients’ giving strategies and then direct you to engage directly with each foundation as they have distinct application procedures and timelines. We also want to understand your needs and challenges so that we can improve our grantmaking process and help our clients give more equitably and effectively.
My organization is working to advance a cause that one of your client foundations supports. Who should I contact at PFS to see if we’re eligible for funding?
First of all, thank you for your important work and interest in partnering with one of our clients. We recommend reaching out to a member of the specific client’s team to determine eligibility. Our program staff are happy to share time-saving information to help assess what steps would be best based on the client foundation’s funding approach. Learn more about our foundation partners.
How does PFS staff advocate for the nonprofit community when interacting with foundations and boards to champion equitable grantmaking?
We work closely with client foundations to help them recognize and navigate inherent power dynamics. With deep gratitude for the work of the nonprofit community, we help our clients calibrate their strategic goals and giving programs to embrace equity and trust.
Is there a single LOI or application that my nonprofit organization can complete to check eligibility for funding from all of your client foundations?
No. Each client foundation we work with operates independently, which means you’ll need to fill out separate applications for each funding opportunity.
Who should I reach out to if I have a question about a specific grant application?
Contact the Grants Manager associated with the foundation behind the grant you’re applying for. They can help you navigate the online grants system or answer specific questions about the application. You can search for many of our client foundations—including their open grants and associated staff—here.
We’re Here to Help
Contact us to learn how our team can support the specific needs of your family or foundation.