Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

July 30, 2007

Foundations need to get real

Foundations are living in a dream world.

Their annual reports, websites and conferences are exercises in self-congratulation for their bold innovation and good works.

But while they pride themselves on investing in change, they are slow to change themselves.
Foundations are secretive, clubby and fixated on pet programs.

They talk a lot about diversity, and require it from nonprofits that want grants, but too few truly diversify their own boards and staffs.

And few foundations have the backbone to push for changing flawed public policies.

Foundations seem to save their activism for fighting efforts to require that they disclose too much information or pay out a bigger share of their assets through grants.

And while they demand greater accountability from nonprofits, far too few foundations practice the openness they preach or will make grants to help nonprofits improve their operations.

According to a recent report in The New York Times, the Carnegie Corporation and the James Irvine Foundation both have published reports recently examining failed grants they made.
But they are the exception.

As blogger Albert Ruesga reports, a new book by foundation veteran Joel Orosz says foundations generally fail to risks.

With wealth, influence and independence, foundations should be leading the charge for social change and a more effective charitable marketplace change.

Instead of patting themselves on the back, preaching to nonprofits and whining about excessive regulation, foundations should clean up their own houses, invest in nonprofit infrastructure, help address urgent social needs, and form collaborative efforts to attack broader social problems.


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