It’s precious rare, in grantmaking circles, to hear anyone admit to carrying on philanthropy that isn’t strategic — much less to boast of it. Here at the Center, where Strategic Philanthropy is part of our name, we obviously try to encourage that aspiration as much as possible, even as we realize that (a) many foundations aren’t nearly as strategic as they want to be, and (b) strategy, by itself, isn’t the answer to everything. At a recent meeting of the Center’s Foundation Impact Research Group, Robert Gallucci, president of the John D. and Catherine T.
Economist Zoltan Acs, who has made his academic mark mostly by thinking and writing about entrepreneurship, has lately trained his lens on philanthropy, in an engaging book called Why Philanthropy Matters. Appropriately, for a scholar of the entrepreneurial impulse, Professor Acs spends much of his book talking about the kind of philanthropy practiced by wealthy and successful people during their lifetime, and how that kind of enterprising philanthropy benefits society.
Foundations have several ways of deciding whether to operate forever or to put all their resources to work in a limited time. Most of the rationales have to do either with the founder’s wishes (some want to take the long view and leave a perpetual legacy, some prefer to give while they’re alive or for just a short time after their death) or else with the nature of the problems they want to address (curing a disease right now vs. exploring medical frontiers far into the future).
Sixteen years ago, William P. Ryan, a philanthropy scholar and consultant, wrote an epochally influential article in the Harvard Business Review, with co-authors Christine W. Letts and Alan Grossman, called “Virtuous Capital: What Foundations Can Learn from Venture Capitalists.” One early and enthusiastic reader of that article was Michael Bailin, then president of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.
Leadership changes, strategic reviews, the closing of some programs and a fresh emphasis on others — all these are part of the normal cycle at just about any foundation. They may feel momentous at the time, but at most foundations, where endowments last indefinitely, the drama soon fades and life returns to normal. There’s always time to reconsider decisions, correct mistakes, try a fresh approach.
The Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society is pleased to announce the publication of Changing the Game: Civic Leadership at The Boston Foundation, 2001-2012, by Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation.
On June 6-7, 2012, the Center hosted a meeting in Washington D.C. for representatives of foundations that are in the process of spending down their assets.
Professor Joel L. Fleishman's fourth annual report on spend-down at the AVI CHAI Foundation chronicles a period of exciting, promising, and sustained—indeed, reassuring—action and direction. Highlights of the year are summarized region-by-region.
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This course examines policy issues at international, national, and local levels. It attempts to provide groundwork approaches to nonprofits, NGOs, and philanthropy. The emphasis is on how philanthropy, nonprofit, and NGO sectors operate, their niche alongside private and public sectors, revenue sources, impact on society, and converse effects of society and its institutions; the policy making process.