Using only the traditional tactics of standard philanthropy, the Revson Foundation helped New York City’s struggling branch libraries regain support from City Hall and begin rebuilding their crumbling infrastructure.
Should philanthropists follow the guidance of Duke Prof. Joel Fleishman and his co-author Tom Tierney, in the 2011 book Give Smart, and devote their giving to the causes that most move their hearts? Or should they emulate Facebook billionaires Cari Tuna and Dustin Moskovitz, who select their charitable targets with cerebral dispassion, assessing how many people will benefit from any given contribution, how great and lasting the benefit might be relative to the cost, and how much risk of failure they will confront along the way.
Recent decades have seen a marked shift in not just the amount of philanthropic contributions directly into public-policy debates, but the explicitness of their intent. Whereas most foundation grants in the policy arena used to take the form of “demonstrations” and “models," funders today have tended to leap directly into the promotion business, advocating changes based on normative arguments that may be only loosely grounded in empirical evidence.
In 2014, preparing for its final burst of expansive, long-vision grants, Atlantic drew its core programs to a close, downsized its staff, ramped up a final communications strategy, and became, in all respects, an institution in the final stages of work.
Almost all grants support human beings. But only some concentrate on cultivating human excellence. Five factors, drawn from The Atlantic Philanthropies' work in Viet Nam, seem to define this important form of grantmaking.