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March 02, 2007


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This is really quite unfair. You go away for a long, long time, and in your absence, we are all lulled into a sense of complacency -- sort of a la-dee-dah state of being. Suddenly you reappear asking questions like these. Have you no shame!!

At the same time, thanks. And welcome back.


You forgot the fifth and most important: How can I win that damn award from the Council on Foundations? Welcome back.

Albert Ruesga

Thanks. Wasn't it Jack Benny who said, "I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis, and I don''t deserve that either"?

owen paine

"Should foundations take up the slack when, under pressure to reduce taxes, governments cut funding for social programs? "

the third sector
in particular
the granting foundations
the backers of the rest of the third sector so to speak
as a total are way too small
to sub for the state
particularly so
on any social mission
involving mass relief

but big
state funded social programs
need innovation
new paradigms

bold venturing is not the state's forte

anymore then corporate giants are

funding bold venturing
while seeking
leverage max
off uncle's purse
seems the best use
of such limited resources
as the third sector foundations have

in fact
of course
lobbying guv directly
should be a major
third sector activity
begging the state
for funds for the righteous needy
to more effective final results

state programs are nott only non self sustaining

but non self correcting

it takes foundations
to "show " the possible
to gubmint

and to counter
the social budget slashers ???

again the indirection
the leverage the tapping of the donor class
requires rivaling the other gift seekers
nothing is necessarily
simply because its costly
to compete for

then trying to directly
come up with
such huge sums of money

Albert Ruesga

Thanks for the comment, Mr. Paine. Government wants the Third Sector to do more and more with less and less (hence the push for total cost reimbursement in the health care field, for example). Perhaps if nonprofits were given the power to levy taxes?


Albert, my understanding is of his comment is this:

Given that the government wants to push responsibilites on the third sector, AND wants to defund it, a change of strategy and tactics is in order. If I'm not mistaken, foundations already know how to set up small scale, scalable models of how things can and should work. These, then, should become part of their own bully pulpit, in a more directly confrontational relationship with the Babbitt individualists and Gantry conservatives in government. The foundations need a broadly based partisan constituency. I may be taken to task for this, but get a copy of the recent Harpers and take a look at the article on Hezbollah. I am not, I hasten to add, suggesting foundation personnel learn how to use RPGs or AK-47s.

Albert Ruesga

Foundations seldom challenge government policies or behavior directly. When they do it at all, they do it through their grantees. You understand foundations well enough to know the kinds of things that stand in the way of their using the bully pulpit in the way you describe. By challenging public policies, foundations invite the scrutiny of policymakers and the media, and most foundation boards and CEOs shrink from the limelight. While public charities can engage in a limited amount of lobbying, private foundations (among the largest foundations in the United States and certainly the most numerous) face very strong lobbying restrictions. And I wish it were true that foundations have a good sense of what can and should work in education, health care delivery, and other areas. I think this is true in some domains. We have a very good sense--thanks to the efforts of many outstanding nonprofit advocacy and research organizations--of how to end homelessness in a given region, to take one example. But overall, there are huge gaps in our knowledge.

This is one of the reasons I'm grateful for new institutions like The Grantmaking School. We've not done a good job of capturing and teaching what it is we think we know.


Albert you do a great service in bringing your personal knowledge of the foundation world to those of us who lack it. These "inside truths" are very hard to obtain from outside the firewalls. Even the smallest hints you let drop about the prevailing foundation ethos is very helpful. And to my ears it comes across with deep respect for established philanthropies. You are simply asking the sector to live up to its own ideals and potential for good.

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