Whether your foundation is committed to operating in perpetuity, or you’re considering a strategic lifespan, does defining the parameters of your foundation’s activity restrict or liberate you?

Ready, set, go. You’ve decided to manage your foundation’s grantmaking within a “strategic lifespan.” Or, in the old parlance, you’re “spending down.” So, what happens now?

Will a sense of panic settle in? So much difference to make. So little time. Every decision becomes vital. Every dollar becomes precious. One false move and it will all be over. Sounds exhausting.

Will you decide to become a student of the best practices of “spending down”? Proceed deliberately down a proscriptive path. Follow the rules. Sounds like paint by numbers philanthropy. Where’s the joy in that?

Or, will you become reckless? After all, what the heck difference can you really make in the world in just a few years? Might as well throw strategy to the wind and do what feels good. Go ahead spend willy-nilly.

Before you and your foundation take that leap away from perpetuity towards strategic lifespan, you’ll have no idea how it will really feel. But we are confident that it won’t be anything like you expect. When Quixote Foundation decided to “spend up” – our term for becoming a strategic lifespan foundation – the only thing we really knew was that we were not going to be in the grantmaking business forever.

What really happened to us was profound.

Read the full article about structure and spending by June Wilson and Lenore Hanisch at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.