Connect With Us
YouTube
RSS

« Expanding Our View of Pathways to Grow Impact | Main | Read of the Week: 'US Giving for Japan Disaster Exceeds $710 Million' »

'How Do I General Support Thee, Let Me Count the Ways!'

March 22, 2013

(Bradford K. Smith is the president of the Foundation Center. In his last post, he wrote about the globalization of the Giving Pledge.)

Headshot_brad-smith2With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I could not resist paraphrasing her famous poem for an appeal to foundations to stop trying to be so unique. But I promise you, this will be the shortest blog post I've ever written because the data speak far louder than words.

America's more than 80,000 foundations have invented at least 251 different ways to utter the phrase grantseekers most long to hear -- "general operating support." They range from the terse ("for general use") to the turgid ("for unrestricted funds for operational development"), from the honorific ("for honorary grant for general support") to the positivistic ("for general operations advancement"), from the vague ("for general") to the didactic ("for general operating support, core support for agency").

So even answering a seemingly simple question like the one posed not too long ago by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy -- "What is the state of general operating support?" -- can be devilishly difficult. It takes people willing to penetrate the linguistic creativity of donors, develop standards, write code, and crunch data -- people like my colleagues at the Foundation Center. And it takes foundations like those which have already banded together to form the Reporting Commitment to be more transparent and consistent about the way they report their grants data.

End of post. Any and all thoughts welcome!

-- Brad Smith

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Thanks for this post. I just wish more foundations would offer general support, under any name!

Hear, Hear, Elizabeth! I agree. Why are so many funders afraid of people? Yes, there are many top-heavy organizations, but there are many organizations that must have many people working in order to make programs happen. I know, because I work for one. We have 22 employees -- but our overall FTE is 5.47. We run programs in 24 different schools across our state. We have to have people onsite to manage our 660+ volunteers. We just couldn't manage program quality without these folks, so we consider those salaries a true and direct program cost -- but try to convince a "no salaries of any kind" funder of that . . .

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "Just because something is statistically significant does not mean it is meaningfully significant...."

    Ashley Merryman, author, Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Tags

Other Blogs