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Time Limited Philanthropy Publications


AVI CHAI Reports

First Annual Report to The AVI CHAI Foundation

The first report tells why and how the AVI CHAI Foundation decided to spend down its endowment, and documents and assesses the first year of the spend-down process.

Gearing Up to Spend Down: A Foundation in the Midst of Paradigm Shifts

The second report examines the changes brought about by the board's determination to begin governing the institution less from the perspective of individual grants and more with an eye to the sustainability of its overall fields of interests, the likelihood of future funding for these fields, the durability of their leading organizations, and the odds that future philanthropists would see opportunity in, and derive inspiration from, the work that AVI CHAI had set in motion.

Shifting the Spend-Down into High Gear: A Foundation Begins Implementing Its Strategy

The third report marks a significant change: a period of exciting, promising, and sustained—indeed, reassuring—action and direction.

Some Strategies Beginning to Pay Off...And Promising Hints of Others, Like Early Glimpses of the Dawn

The fourth report describes the process by which AVI CHAI plans and carries out its grantmaking so as to achieve significant, lasting objectives in the time remaining and leave its grantees stronger and more fully equipped to carry on the parts of their mission that the Foundation has supported.

Sunset Approaching More Rapidly Than It Seems

The fifth report tells how the AVI CHAI Foundation goes about putting its full endowment to use and completing its grantmaking.

New Uncertainties — and Opportunities — as the End Approaches

This is the sixth in a series of reports on how the AVI CHAI Foundation goes about putting its full endowment to use and completing its grantmaking.

The Saving Remnant Is Shining Bright, Its Fire Now Spreading Renewing Light

This is the seventh in a series of reports on how The AVI CHAI Foundation is going about completing its grantmaking.

Against Strong Headwinds

This is the eighth and final report on the concluding years of the Avi Chai Foundation.

Atlantic Philanthropies Reports

Winding Down The Atlantic Philanthropies: The First Eight Years: 2001-2009

The first report addresses the questions raised by the seminal decision made by Atlantic Philanthropies founder Charles F. Feeney to witness the social benefits of his donation during his lifetime: spend how? spend on what? organize how? evaluate what?

Winding Down The Atlantic Philanthropies: 2009-2010: Beginning the Endgame

The second report covers events from late 2009 to early 2011, some five to six years before Atlantic expects to make its last grant commitments.

Harvest Time for The Atlantic Philanthropies - 2011-2012: Focus, Exit, and Legacy

The third report covers 2011-2012, two difficult years of judgment, planning, and adjustment. As each year passes, more and more decisions become irreversible, and Atlantic has begun to feel a kind of pressure rarely experienced at perpetual foundations: It is making decisions that can’t be un-made.

Harvest Time for The Atlantic Philanthropies - 2012-2013: Decline & Rise
The fourth report details unexpected turns in the foundation’s approach to commit its entire endowment in a limited time frame.

Harvest Time for the Atlantic Philanthropies - 2013-2014: Final Priorities

The fifth report describes how, in preparation for its final burst of expansive, long-vision grants, Atlantic drew its longstanding 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.

Other Center Publications

Irwin Sweeney Miller Foundation: A Study In Spend Down

This is the story of the third generation members of the Miller family who chose to spend down the Irwin Sweeney Miller Foundation, with assets of approximately $25 million.

The Center for the Public Domain: A Short-Lived Venture Philanthropy

Case study examines a foundation that was conceived as a "venture philanthropy" that would spend down its assets over a relatively brief time in support of its mission to redefine the open source technology movement as a philosophy and apply it to sectors outside of technology.


Outside Publications

Ascoli, Peter M., 2006. "Julius Rosenwald's Crusade: One Donor's Plea to Give While You Live." Philanthropy, May/June. Cover story in Philanthropy magazine focusing largely on an article by Julius Rosenwald published in 1929 in the Saturday Evening Post laying out his reasons for spending down his philanthropic foundation.

Association of Charitable Foundations, 2010. Spending Out: Learning Lessons from Time-Limited Grant-making. London, UK: Author. This booklet continues the series of guides for ACF members, supporting them in their work and helping to reexamine aspects of being an effective foundation. Drawing out the questions of purpose and focus asked by limited-life foundations reveals experience and learning that may be of value to many other foundations undertaking their own periodic reviews, as well as to new philanthropists considering the appropriate vehicle for their giving.

Bays, Jonathan, André Dua, and Lynn K. Taliento, 2006. "A Nonprofit Goes for Broke."  McKinsey Quarterly, September. Free registration required. The organizational challenges stemming from the decision by the Atlantic Philanthropies to spend down its endowment proved daunting and ultimately affected everything from Atlantic's choice of grantees to the kinds of people it employs. Atlantic's story offers strategic, operational, and organisational lessons for any foundation or comparable institution that is considering transformative change.

Carlson, Neil, and Theodora Lurie, 2009. Giving While Living: The Beldon Fund Spend-Out Story. New York: Beldon Fund. The Beldon Fund’s decision to establish a clear end date set the course for its strategy and operations. Decisions about investment, staffing, programs, and preparing grantees for Beldon’s exit all flowed from the simple fact that an immutable closing date existed on the horizon. This monograph focuses on how the Beldon Fund managed the nuts and bolts of spending out.

Coates, Philip, 2008. "Structuring the Investment Portfolio of a Limited-Life Foundation." Effect, vol. 2, no. 3: pp. 29-30. The chief investment officer of the Atlantic Philanthropies outlines a strategy for avoiding significant mark-to-market losses and structuring sufficient liquidity over time to pay grants.

Cullman, Lewis B., 2003. "Private Foundations: The Trick." New York Review of Books, September 25. Opinion piece by the founder of the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Foundation, arguing that federal law should require foundations to spend down their endowments over a fifty-year span.

Davis, Martin A. Jr., 2003. "Spending Down: A Mid-Size Foundation Seeks a Lasting Impact on Public Policy." Philanthropy, September/October. Cover story for Philanthropy magazine outlines seven one-time, high-dollar grants awarded by the W.H. Brady Foundation as it considered spending down.

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, 2007. Strategic Plan, 2007-2012. London, UK: Author. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund is an independent grant-giving charity established in September 1997 to continue the Princess’s humanitarian work in the United Kingdom and overseas. The Fund will spend out its existing capital over a period of between five and nine years from early 2007. In order to achieve its aims in this limited time span it has needed to change the way it works. This report describes its movement from being a criteria-led grant maker to being a proactive and objective-driven one.

Dickason, John H., and Duncan Neuhauser, 1999. "Spending Out, the Markey Way." Foundation News & Commentary, vol. 40, no. 5. Cover story on spend-down at the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust, including the decision to deposit its records in the Rockefeller Archive Center. Also includes information on the Charles E. Culpepper Foundation, the Raymond C. Smith Foundation, and the Whitaker Foundation.

Foundation Center, Survey of Writings on Time-Limited Philanthropy, Spreadsheet, created July 2015.

Gustin, Georgina, 2011. "Last Danforth Foundation Gift Goes to Science Center." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 8. Newspaper article reporting the shut-down of the 84-year-old Danforth Foundation of St. Louis.

Hanisch, Lenore, 2011. "Giving It Away Now to Make the Most Difference." Tactical Philanthropy, January 3. Guest post on the Tactical Philanthropy blog by the co-executive director of the Quixote Foundation, which is planning to spend all of its endowment by 2017.

Harrison, Verna, 2008. "Solving Today's Problems with Today's Money." EGA Journal, Fall: pp. 24-26. Interview with John Hunting, founder of the Beldon Fund, which closed in 2009.

Hoereth, Joseph K., 2007. "Julius Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Fund: A Case in Non-Perpetual Philanthropy." In Louis Delgado, ed., Lessons from Philanthropy: A Case Studies Approach: A Report to the Ford Foundation. Chicago: Loyola University Chicago, pp. 149-169. Teaching case study of Julius Rosenwald and his foundation, centering on his arguments for creating a non-perpetual philanthropy.

Jacobs, Deborah L., 2010. "Foundations with a Limited Life." New York Times, November 10. Newspaper article examining the phenomenon of spend-down foundations.

Johnston, David Cay, 2009. "As Foundations Close, Anxiety for Charities." New York Times, November 11. Newspaper article examining the reaction of charities to the prospect of their funders' closing.

Kass, Sarah, 2011. "Spending Down in the 21st Century." Report originally submitted as a memo to the board of trustees of the AVI CHAI Foundation, May 2010.

Kleiman, Kelly, 2012. "Existing Forever Versus Doing Some Good." Nonprofiteer blog, March 28. Blog post arguing that foundation spend-down is in sync with both donor intent and sectoral need.

Krumboltz, Ann, 2008. "Brainerd Foundation Sunsets."  EGA Journal, Fall: p. 18. Brief article by the executive director of the Seattle-based Brainerd Foundation on its intention to spend down its endowment by approximately the year 2020.

LaMarche, Gara, and Lenore Hanisch, 2010. "Giving While Living." National Center on Family Philanthropy, November 10. Audio file (1 hour, 24 minutes) of teleconference hosted by the president and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies and the co-executive director of the Quixote Foundation.

Institute for Philanthropy, 2010. The Power of Now: Spend Out Trusts and Foundations in the UK. London, UK: Author. This paper seeks to better understand the phenomenon of spending out and attempts to draw an illustrative picture of what a sample of existing and recently closed spend-out trusts in the United Kingdom are doing and why. Includes profiles of the Tubney Charitable Trust; the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Trust; the Four Acre Trust; and the Atlantic Philanthropies.

Nash, Matthew T.A., 2007. The Aaron Diamond Foundation: AIDS Research in New York City. Durham, NC: Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University. Case study examines a foundation that spent down its $200 million endowment over 10 years on programs in medical research, minority education, and culture in New York City.

Ostrower, Francie, 2009. Limited Life Foundations: Motivations, Experiences, and Strategies. Washington, DC: Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, Urban Institute. Although most foundations are established in perpetuity, the limited life option is attracting more attention. This monograph helps fill a gap in the literature by examining the motivations, strategies, and experiences associated with the decision to "sunset" and by comparing the attitudes and practices of perpetual and limited life foundations. The report draws on survey data on over 800 private foundations with varied longevity plans, and in-depth interviews with 31 foundations that have considered or plan termination.

Ostrower, Francie, 2011. Foundation Sunset: A Decision-Making Guide. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute. This research-based guide offers a framework that can help donors and trustees craft a sunsetting plan that is consistent with their particular values, circumstances, and motivations. It does so by identifying overarching areas of decisions for donors and trustees to address, and discussing options within them. This guide proposes that a strong sunsetting plan will be one in which donors and trustees clarify their thinking on each of these elements, and in which the different elements of the plan are consistent with one another and the foundation’s fundamental rationale for sunsetting.

Ostrower, Francie, 2011. Sunsetting: A Framework for Foundation Life as well as Death. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute. This paper contends that, when approached in a strategic fashion, sunsetting offers a distinct approach to philanthropy with certain benefits and characteristics. This conclusion is developed through an analysis of four sunsetting foundations: the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Beldon Fund, the Jacobs Family Foundation, and the Pear Foundation. These foundations share certain characteristics of sunsetting foundations more broadly, but they were not chosen because they are typical. They were selected because each, in its own way, takes a planned and deliberative approach to sunsetting.

Peery, Dave, 2011. "Spend Down or Act Like It!" PF Whiteboard, January 19. Post on the blog of the Peery Foundation by board member and day-to-day manager of the foundation David Peery, urging his own board and those of other foundations to if not spend down then at least act like a spend-down foundation.

Piereson, James, 2002. "The Insider's Guide to Spend Down: Switching Off the Lights at the Olin Foundation." Philanthropy, vol. 16, no. 2. In this magazine article, Olin's executive director describes the ongoing process of spend-down at the conservative foundation, which closed in 2005.

Piereson, James, and Gara LaMarche, 2011. "Giving It All Away: Strategies from the Spend-Down Experts." Philanthropy Roundtable Annual Meeting. Audio file (55 minutes) of conversation between the former executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation and the president and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies.

Renz, Loren, and David Wolcheck, 2009. Perpetuity or Limited Lifespan: How Do Family Foundations Decide? New York: Foundation Center. While awareness of lifespan planning options has grown, research on this topic has been sparse. To answer the basic question of how many active foundations are planning to spend down or exist in perpetuity (or have not yet made a decision), and to examine foundations’ motivations and decision-making, the Foundation Center, in collaboration with the Council on Foundations, launched a study of family foundations in 2008. This report presents the study’s findings, which are based on survey responses from 1,074 family foundations.

Schmidt, Arthur "Buzz," 2009. "Escaping the Perpetuity Mindset Trap." Nonprofit Quarterly, vol. 16, Spring: pp. 64-68. The founder and CEO of GuideStar International argues that foundations can increase their philanthropic impact if they focus less on their own longevity and begin putting a larger portion of their funds toward grantmaking. Includes a list of 9 potential operating strategies that would accompany this goal for increasing social value.

Stehle, Vincent, 2005. "Here and Now or Forevermore?" Foundation News and Commentary, vol. 46, no. Article excerpted from "Considering the Question of Perpetuity," chapter one of the National Center for Family Philanthropy's book Investment Issues for Family Funds: Managing and Maximizing Your Philanthropic Assets.

Stone, Deanne, 2005. Alternatives to Perpetuity: A Conversation Every Foundation Should Have. Free registration required. Washington, DC: National Center for Family Philanthropy. This paper provides background on the perpetuity versus spend-down debate, discusses the motivations for considering an alternative to perpetuity, and identifies the basic challenges foundations face when looking to spend down their assets: redefining goals, changing investment and spending strategies, communicating with grantees and the public, preparing grantees to find replacement funds, anticipating staff needs, attending to legal requirements, and planning their legacies.

Thelin, John R., and Richard W. Trollinger, 2009. Time Is of the Essence: Foundations and the Policies of Limited Life and Endowment Spend-Down. Washington, DC: Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation, Aspen Institute. Includes case studies of the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation; the General Education Board; the Julius Rosenwald Fund; and the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust.

Tubney Charitable Trust, 2012. Giving Our All: Reflections of a Spend Out Charity. London: Author. Short book that tells the story of a British foundation, from its founding through its final spend-out fifteen years later, that grew to become a proactive champion for the natural environment and the lives of farm animals.

Waleson, Heidi, 2007. Beyond Five Percent: The New Foundation Payout Menu. New York: Beldon Fund. This paper looks at 13 foundations and examines the ways in which their nonstandard structures—whether in the areas of lifespan, payout, or methods—arise from their missions. Includes sections on spend-down, completed or underway, at the Whitaker Foundation and Helen F. Whitaker Fund, the Beldon Fund, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund and the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Foundation, and the Haigh-Scatena Foundation.

Waleson, Heidi, 2010. Turning Passion into Action: Giving While Living. New York: Atlantic Philanthropies. This publication describes the growing trend of Giving While Living, shares the stories of some of the philanthropists who, like Charles F. Feeney, founder of the Atlantic Philanthropies, are giving generously in their lifetimes, and offers some tips and resources for those who may be interested in embarking on a program of Giving While Living. The profiles in this publication demonstrate the wide range of factors that could motivate one to give.

Whitaker Foundation, 2006. The Whitaker Foundation 2005: The Final Annual Report of the Whitaker Foundation. Arlington, VA: Author. Includes statements from the Chairman and the President of the Whitaker Foundation; a history and timeline of the foundation; 14 essays by individuals in the field of biomedical engineering assessing the foundation's legacy; and a summary of events in the last year of the foundation's existence.

Wooster, Martin Morse, 1998. "Debates on Perpetuity." Philanthropy, July/August. Cover story in Philanthropy magazine revisits "Principles of Public Giving," an article Julius Rosenwald wrote for the Atlantic Monthly in 1929, and its reception by Rosenwald's fellow philanthropists.