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DO TIME LIMITS ADD VALUE? HOW WOULD WE KNOW?

Foundations that plan to operate for a limited time and then close (normally called “spend-down” foundations, though some dislike the phrase) often make an intriguing argument for why they prefer to operate under a deadline: They believe that a brief, large outlay of philanthropic capital can produce greater value for society than…

POLITICAL PHILANTHROPY OUT OF THE SHADOWS

A curious duality governs the way observers of philanthropy and public affairs talk about money in politics. Donations that fuel one’s own causes constitute support for “policy advocacy,” “civic engagement,” “and community mobilization.” Donations that pay for an opponent’s causes amount to “buying political power,” “charitable plutocracy,” and “threats to…

Field

A FOUNDATION CONFRONTS ITS FINAL PRIORITIES

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.   The Atlantic Philanthropies, the largest institution ever to put…

UNDERSTANDING HUMAN-CAPITAL PHILANTHROPY

lmost 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.   Ask a casual observer of philanthropy about foundations that seek out exceptional people and support their…

UP FROM OBSCURITY

Modesty is a personal virtue, but it can be a vice for foundations and their causes. Paul Grogan of the Boston Foundation recently explained why.   This summer, two books landed on my desk that I would never have expected a few years ago. Both were expansive, beautifully produced tributes…

MAPPING A FINITE HIGHWAY

Almost a decade ago, Joel Fleishman, director of the Center for Strategic Philanthropy, got a call from a foundation that had recently decided to expend its endowment and complete its grantmaking within 12-15 years. The foundation was asking for his help in collecting and synthesizing the available research on time-limited…

A NOT-SO-RISKY BUSINESS?

Are foundation officers more courageous risk-takers than other people? Some new research says: Evidently not. Then again, should they be? Speaking at Duke last year, John R. Ettinger, CEO of the Helmsley Trust, shared some preliminary hypotheses about risk tolerance — or, more precisely, risk-aversion — in philanthropy. He cited research in behavioral economics showing that…

FIRG SPRING 2015 – SAVE THE DATE

Our Foundation Impact Research Group presentations will feature a compelling slate of speakers in Spring 2015. Please mark your calendars to attend these exciting events. “Accelerating Impact – Giving While Living” Christopher G. Oechsli President & CEO Atlantic Philanthropies Wed. January 28, 2015 “Can Foundations Engineer a Field?” Hilary Pennington…

LANDING AND LAUNCHING

For a foundation spending down, the final years entail a lot of ending, closing, and exiting. But there are good reasons why they should also include some creative new work. The latest installment in Joel Fleishman’s long-running study of the AVI CHAI Foundation’s spend-down was published this week (you can…

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