Giving Compass' Take:

• Dara Major discusses the criticisms of legacy foundations and why new philanthropy LLCs get more praise for taking risks.

• Do you agree with Major's assessment? How should critiques of philanthropy play into your philanthropic strategy decisions? 

• Read about one philanthropic legacy focused on empowerment.

For the last decade or so, the philanthropic sector has been struggling to adapt to changing external conditions — including government devolution, the rise of the knowledge economy, the dramatic deepening of inequality, new players, new opportunities and a growing popular awareness of philanthropy itself — and by extension reckoning with its very purpose.  Some major, mainstream national conference themes throughout this period can be distilled as:

  • Should a foundation have goals and strategies?
  • Should a foundation engage stakeholders?
  • Should a foundation invest in things that are counter to its mission?

Yikes. What makes this sector unique is not that it wrestles with these questions, but that such a large segment of it struggles to align practice with purpose.

For instance, according to a recent study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, fully two-thirds of foundation CEOs believe it is possible for foundations to make a significant difference in society – but few think they are actually doing it. Why? Most cited internal organizational barriers that are under their own control to address:  too many goals, lack of agreement on goals, undisciplined implementation of strategies, lack of long-term commitment, and… fear.

Read the full article about legacy foundations and risk-taking by Dara Major at Philanthropy New York, via The Center for Effective Philanthropy.