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A 'Flip' Chat With Courtney O'Malley, Vice President, Starr Foundation

April 27, 2012

(This video was recorded as part of our "Flip" chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with Jennifer McCrea, a senior research fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations and the originator of the "exponential" approach to fundraising.)

Established by Cornelius Vander Starr, an insurance entrepreneur who founded C.V. Starr & Co. and other companies later combined by his successor, Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, into what became American International Group (AIG), the New York City-based Starr Foundation is one of the biggest foundations you've never heard of. Chaired by Greenberg, the foundation, which earlier this week announced a $50 million gift in support of the Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative (Tri-SCI), a project of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Rockefeller University, and Weill Cornell Medical College, ranks forty-ninth on the Foundation Center's list of the largest U.S. foundations by asset size and forty-fifth by total giving but keeps a relatively low profile.

Earlier this month, PND sat down with foundation vice president Courtney O'Malley, one of ten full-time staff at the foundation, to talk about the foundation's history and areas of interest, its no-unsolicited-proposals policy, and its approach to transparency.

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.)

(Running time: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)

 

The Foundation Center has an entire Web site, Glasspockets.org, dedicated to foundation transparency. To learn more about our efforts to bring transparency to the world of philanthropy, check out this Powerpoint presentation narrated by FC president Brad Smith.

Have a thought or comment you'd like to share? Use the comments section below...

-- Mitch Nauffts

Comments

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You make some great points, Courtney, and it is interesting to hear the perspective of a large, but low-key foundation like Starr and how the personal experience of its donor has determined institutional profile. You also talk about your own style and the practice of being personally accessible and transparent in dealings with grantees, applicants, etc. This is very important since the largest complaint applicants have about foundations in general is the unresponsiveness of staff. I agree with one half of your statement about why transparency will be slow in coming to foundations (because as endowed, private institutions they do not suffer the same pressures as other kinds of institutions). But I don't think it is a question of resource allocation, since the financial cost of being transparent is minimal....it is more a matter of preference, will and leadership. We have found on www.glasspockets.org that there are growing numbers of small foundations creating new ways to be transparent. Transparency is both a value and an ideal that each foundation will approach from its own perspective.

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