What does PFS do?
We provide staff and services for private foundations so that leaders can focus on what they love about philanthropy and know that everything else is being handled professionally. Our services are flexible and could include strategic advice, board support, grantmaking programs, compliance, and financial management. We can also serve as their headquarters, so they have a physical home.
Is PFS a foundation?
No. Pacific Foundation Services is a for-profit professional services firm that supports the grant making work of private foundations. However, all of our clients are nonprofit, and the organizations they support are also nonprofit.
Who do you work for?
We work with the spectrum of private foundations, from new foundations to foundations that have existed for generations. Our clients are family foundations, community boards, or a mix. Our clients support nonprofit organizations through grants, impact investments, or both. We also consider our work to be in service of the nonprofits that our clients support, and we take this dual responsibility seriously.
How do you work with foundations?
We take a one-size-fits-one approach, meeting foundations where they are and helping them get where they want to go. Every client gets a dedicated team, and foundation leaders can be as hands-on or off as they like. We ensure they have the freedom to pursue their vision with confidence.
What makes PFS different?
We provide personalized service to more than 30 private foundations. We have a diverse and multitalented staff that lets us ably serve a wide range of needs. PFS can help foundation leaders find and express their philanthropic voice, no matter what their goals are. Our clients say it best: we combine the best qualities of traditional philanthropy with the entrepreneurial spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Who are your staff? What is their experience?
We have about 30 team members. They are foundation leaders, program managers, finance experts, and administrators. In addition to covering all the operational bases, we have deep subject matter knowledge in a variety of program areas. We love working together to make the most of our collective expertise. We’re very serious about our work, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously.
Do you manage foundation assets?
PFS does 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.
Does PFS provide legal services, such as forming foundations and providing legal advice?
PFS does 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 do provide some guidance on legal matters based on our long experience in the field.
Does PFS provide accounting, audit, or tax services?
PFS does everything from bookkeeping to full-stop investment accounting. We do not perform audits (because it is our work being audited), although we oversee the audit process. We do not prepare foundation tax returns (forms 990PF.)
Can nonprofits submit a grant request to PFS for consideration by its clients?
All our client foundations are independent of one another. We do not combine their assets or shop grants around to our clients. We do encourage foundations to collaborate on promising opportunities if their missions are in alignment and we educate nonprofits about the giving priorities of our client foundations and encourage them to apply to foundations where there may be a fit.
Do we need to have a web presence if we work with PFS?
No. 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.
How do I know what my team would be if I worked with PFS?
We are a relationship business and we take great care to build the right team for every client. Before assigning staff members, we consider foundation guidelines, staff program expertise, and the expected work flow of your foundation.
Can I use the PFS offices for meetings with grantees and financial advisors?
Absolutely. Our office becomes the foundation’s office. Our conference rooms in all three locations are available for any foundation business.
How much does it cost to work with PFS?
Our fees are negotiated annual rates based on a number of factors, including our scope of work, foundation asset size, grantmaking budget, number of grants, frequency of board meetings, complexity of investments, and our role in performing due diligence on grants. 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. We also recognize that workflows vary from month to month or year to year; those variations come out in the wash.
Is PFS accepting new clients?
Yes. We are always happy to talk to new or existing foundations about working with us.
Do you help raise money for your client foundations?
No. None of our clients actively fundraise, and we are not equipped to manage an active fundraising effort. We do process gifts that our client foundations receive.
What are the sources of your clients’ endowments?
Our current client list includes foundations formed as far back as 1917 and as recently as 2017. Generally speaking, the 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.