Private, Not Isolated

By Andrew Schulz, Foundation Source

ASF is pleased to feature the second post in a multipart series from our colleagues at Foundation Source, a leading provider of comprehensive support services for private foundations. Foundation Source shares our commitment to helping donors maximize their dollars and time. Read the first post in the series

For as long as I’ve been involved with philanthropy, people have talked about how important privacy is to private foundations. Not privacy in the sense of secrecy, but freedom from the pressures that other sectors face that often prevent them from tackling persistent (and often controversial) issues facing society.

Foundations, shielded from the constant focus on quarterly profits, election cycles, or annual fundraising goals, can take risks, pursue goals that take time, and work to identify and mitigate causes rather respond to symptoms. Nearly everyone agrees that some freedom from these influences is part of the secret sauce that makes private philanthropy work.

But just because private foundations have, and should have, the right to be independent does not mean they should constantly exercise that right. If they do, the result is not emboldening autonomy that enables effective pursuit of the common good, but isolation. When no one is looking over your shoulder, it’s too easy to become complacent, tolerate mediocrity, and lose impact.

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