Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Fund: A Case in Non-Perpetual Philanthropy

Loyola University Chicago



Case Study Sector


Julius Rosenwald made several key arguments against perpetuities. He believed that each generation should be responsible for generating philanthropic contributions to current issues. He believed this for several reasons. First, he was confident that future generations would be able to meet the philanthropic needs for issues of their day. He also believed that a contribution with a life that extends beyond the generation of the giver’s children would lose its personal connection with the giver, would most likely lose the connection with its intended purpose, and would not be as effective as the same gift given now. Similar to his philosophy toward work and inheritance, he felt philanthropic contributions left behind for future generations displace the valuable effort that those generations might make to generate contributions on their own. Just as there is value in people working for their own benefit, there is also value to society in people of the same generation helping each other and their children.

Rosenwald saw the non-perpetual foundation as an opportunity to solve, or at a minimum, dramatically affect current problems. Perpetual foundations can have an impact on current needs; however, the current generation is likely to perceive only an incremental change in those needs. While the sum of incremental changes over the long run could add up to a substantial impact on a problem, it is possible that the same impact may have been achieved by distributing the same resources over the remaining lifetime of the giver.

This case study appears in the collection Lessons from Philanthropy: A Case Studies Approach: A Report to the Ford Foundation. The case studies are designed to increase the relevance of philanthropy teaching curriculums and better prepare future leaders that are engaged in philanthropy and nonprofit sector work. The overall goal of the present project was to develop case studies that would serve as teaching/learning tools about philanthropy by providing in-depth examination of critical issues and experiences related to foundation decision-making, governance and fund- distribution. Throughout the development of these cases, a special emphasis on philanthropic involvement in communities of color and other underserved communities was maintained in order to improve philanthropy’s work in relation to these populations.



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