Tag Archives: private foundations

Foundations, For Better or For Worse

Most of us don’t question the basic operating procedures of private foundations. They are what they are. But if not for a turn of events a century ago, the common business model for foundations could have evolved in a much different – and, to my mind, much better – way. Continue reading

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Waiting. And Waiting.

There’s an epidemic of deferred philanthropy in this country.

What do I mean? Let’s imagine that your house is burning. Firefighters arrive on the scene, and they offer you three choices.

The first option is for the firefighters to do all that they can, now, to save your home.

The second option is for them to use only five percent of their available water and equipment and personnel to fight the fire. They assure you that this will allow them to shepherd their resources so that they will be able to direct a similarly insufficient effort toward future house fires a year from now, a decade from now, fifty years from now.

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The Few

You may have seen this recent video on wealth inequality. It graphically shows how 40% of the nation’s financial assets are now owned by only 1% of the population. By contrast, the 80% of Americans with the least wealth control only 7% of the assets. Or, to put it another way, the wealthiest 3 million people in this country own nearly six times more wealth than the poorest 240 million.

There are many reasons to find this trend disturbing. This is a huge issue for our nation, economically, politically, philosophically, and morally. But here’s today’s question: How does the growing wealth disparity in the United States affect nonprofits? Continue reading

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Power

There are few places in public life where there is a greater imbalance of power than between a private foundation and a nonprofit grantee.

I’m not saying that a foundation has more absolute power than, say, the Pentagon or Exxon-Mobil. Of course it doesn’t. I’m simply stating that the imbalance of power is more extreme between private foundations and grantees than between almost any other set of institutions in the country. Continue reading

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