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Perpetuity is so yesterday. Or so it sometimes seems, as many high-profile philanthropists make clear their intention to do their “giving while living,” rather than establish endowed, perpetual institutions. The once-multibillion-dollar Atlantic Philanthropies is in the final stages of winding down operations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to spend down within 20 years of its founders’ deaths. And donors such as Sean Parker (of Napster and Facebook fame) have announced that their foundations will be time-limited.
Chief among these arguments is that long-lived foundations may drift from the founder’s original intent.
Fleishman argues that perpetuity, in fact, offers many advantages in creating impact. This point is particularly interesting because, at least in my discussions with donors, many assume the reverse: that more spending, more quickly, equals more impact. When CEP studied the approaches of 11 limited life foundations, “the opportunity to have greater impact” was the most frequently cited motivation for spending down.