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NPQ to Foundations: 'Not Good Enough'

October 31, 2008

Earlier this month, I posted part of an open letter to Council on Foundation members written by CoF board chair Ralph Smith and Steve Gunderson, the council's president and CEO. Prefacing their remarks with an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the economic situation and its likely impact on philanthropy, Smith and Gunderson suggested that, in the months to come, foundations should step up and "play a constructive role without raising unrealistic expectations" and offered three broad recommendations as to how they might do so:

  1. Actively look for ways to help the nonprofit sector (and grantees, in particular) weather the storm;
  2. Play an active and visible role in helping communities and regions figure out the scope and extent of the challenges they face, and in finding and crafting solutions that make sense; and
  3. Pay special attention to situations where the loss of philanthropic resources could be the unintended consequence of mergers and consolidations that are the inevitable products of economic restructuring.

Not exactly what many, including the editors of the Nonprofit Quarterly, were hoping to hear. In an e-mail "bulletin" to subscribers circulated earlier today, the NPQ argued that it was important in this time of economic turmoil for U.S. foundations "to think and act differently" and urged the council to encourage its members "to be expansive, generous, and bold, not fearful and self-protective." More specifically, foundations should:

  1. Increase their grantmaking;
  2. Increase the flexibility of their grants;
  3. Increase their program- and mission-related investments;
  4. Increase their support for advocacy; and
  5. Increase their commitment to the nonprofit sector.

For the full text of both letters and/or to join a lively conversation about the role of foundations in the current crisis, click here.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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