Three Foundations and the Pittsburgh Public Schools

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


The Heinz Endowments, the Grable Foundation, and the Pittsburgh Foundation had a long history of funding conventional initiatives such as arts projects and science programs in the Pittsburgh public schools. Those initiatives, valuable as they were, in no way addressed the problem currently plaguing the school system: an utterly dysfunctional school board.
Countless individuals in the community had expressed disgust with the board, and various civic and religious groups had spoken out. A citizens group had called for parents to boycott the public schools, members of the city council had threatened to go to the state legislature to have the board restructured, high-ranking administrators had quit or been driven out. Numerous newspaper editorials, letters to the editor, and spectators at board meetings had scolded members of the board, pleaded with them, attempted to appeal to their better natures. All to no avail. The board would not reform itself.
No single, unified, powerful entity had emerged to represent the interests of Pittsburgh’s schoolchildren. The foundation leaders believed that such an entity could help district schools function more effectively despite the presence of an ineffective board. The question was: How could the foundations assist the public in creating such an entity?



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Blog Posts

More on time, value, and time limits

February 19, 2018

A new report applies a theory of time and value in philanthropy to three real cases, to see how a foundation could decide whether to operate with a limited life, based on the amount and kind of value it hopes to create.


Oct 05

Rip Rapson
President and CEO
The Kresge Foundation