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American Foundations

American Foundations: Roles and Contributions

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 457
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  • Book Info
    American Foundations
    Book Description:

    Foundations play an essential part in the philanthropic activity that defines so much of American life. No other nation provides its foundations with so much autonomy and freedom of action as does the United States. Liberated both from the daily discipline of the market and from direct control by government, American foundations understandably attract great attention. As David Hammack and Helmut Anheier note in this volume, "Americans have criticized foundations for... their alleged conservatism, liberalism, elitism, radicalism, devotion to religious tradition, hostility to religion -in short, for commitments to causes whose significance can be measured, in part, by the controversies they provoke. Americans have also criticized foundations for ineffectiveness and even foolishness."

    Their size alone conveys some sense of the significance of American foundations, whose assets amounted to over $530 billion in 2008 despite a dramatic decline of almost 22 percent in the previous year. And in 2008 foundation grants totaled over $45 billion. But what roles have foundations actually played over time, and what distinctive roles do they fill today? How have they shaped American society, how much difference do they make? What roles are foundations likely to play in the future?

    This comprehensive volume, the product of a three-year project supported by the Aspen Institute's program on the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy, provides the most thorough effort ever to assess the impact and significance of the nation's large foundations. In it, leading researchers explore how foundations have shaped -or failed to shape -each of the key fields of foundation work.

    American Foundationstakes the reader on a wide-ranging tour, evaluating foundation efforts in education, scientific and medical research, health care, social welfare, international relations, arts and culture, religion, and social change.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0457-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. viii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Part I Introduction

    • 1 American Foundations: Their Roles and Contributions to Society
      (pp. 3-28)

      What have independent grant-making foundations contributed to the United States? What roles have foundations played over time, and what distinctive roles—if any—do they fill today? Are new roles for foundations currently emerging? This volume presents the product of a three-year effort to answer these questions.

      America’s grant-making foundations are significant by many measures. They numbered more than 112,000 in 2008, held more than $627 billion in assets, and had grown substantially over more than two decades. They command substantial resources even in the midst of the 2008–09 financial crisis.¹ Entitled to considerable tax benefits and exemptions, and...

  6. Part II Exploring Roles and Contributions

    • Education (K–12)

      • 2 Foundations and the Making of Public Education in the United States, 1867–1950
        (pp. 31-50)

        Public education was one of the early forms of American social provision.¹ Indeed, by the mid-nineteenth century primary education was fully institutionalized as a state responsibility in most of the country.² Once established, public responsibility for American schooling continued to expand; public high schools were commonplace in much of the United States by the first decade of the twentieth century. The exception to these patterns is the South. There, public responsibility for elementary education was not firmly established until the late nineteenth century, and public secondary education remained underdeveloped, especially for blacks, until well into the twentieth century.³

        While most...

      • 3 Catalysts for Change? Foundations and School Reform, 1950–2005
        (pp. 51-72)

        From the early nineteenth century through World War II, American foundations developed a varied repertoire of strategies, beginning with a model of the foundation as charity and later expanded to include conditional giving, otherwise known as partial succor, to leverage additional support and the “outsider within” strategy of subsidizing new kinds of public officials or experts, training personnel, demonstration projects, and scientific research.¹ Pursuing strategies of complementarity, philanthropy provided more and better schools for those children not well served by public education, exemplified by foundation efforts to expand supply or to make schooling more equitable for black students in the...

    • Higher Education

      • 4 The Partnerships of Foundations and Research Universities
        (pp. 73-97)

        In 2005 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching celebrated its centennial with worry. One of the great exemplars of the impact of scientific philanthropy on education, the foundation found itself questioning whether foundations could any longer have a productive role in the advancement of teaching, especially in higher education.

        The question had become urgent since the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Pew Charitable Trusts, both sizable endowments with creditable records of university grant making, announced their withdrawal from higher education—the most visible evidence of a more pervasive change. It was therefore understandable that the Carnegie Foundation, so prominent...

      • 5 Foundations and Higher Education
        (pp. 98-119)

        American philanthropic foundations have a long history of supporting higher education. It is a domain in which foundations have focused tremendous resources over time.¹ Although foundation dollars make up only a small part of higher education revenues, they constitute more than a quarter of all foundation giving. And nearly all foundations report some giving to higher education.²

        Funding higher education has proved attractive to foundations for two very different reasons. The first is that higher education has long been seen as a critical gateway to greater opportunities.³ By supporting colleges and universities, foundations can increase the life chances of young...

    • Health Care

      • 6 Foundations and Health: Innovation, Marginalization, and Relevance since 1900
        (pp. 120-140)
        DANIEL M. FOX

        The ideas, political skills, and cash of the donors, directors, and staff of American philanthropic foundations have affected the health status of millions of people during the past century. Foundations in health have innovated and temporized. They have sustained some organizations, promoted radical change in others, and helped to invent more than a few. They have embraced public advocacy and avoided it. In doing their work in health, foundations have collaborated as well as contended with leaders in government, universities, hospitals, and the medical profession.

        A history of health services and policy from the point of view of foundations would,...

      • 7 The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Efforts to Improve Health and Health Care for All Americans
        (pp. 141-157)

        In 1972 a small local foundation that had been doing limited grant making in the New Brunswick, New Jersey, area became the nation’s second largest foundation, with an endowment of $1.2 billion from the estate of Robert Wood Johnson, a former president of Johnson and Johnson. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with assets that have grown to roughly $9 billion, is now the nation’s fourth largest foundation. Its mission—to improve the health and health care of all Americans—is easy to state. Carrying out the mission is difficult and complex, requiring the attention of a fifteen-person board of trustees...

    • Social Welfare

      • 8 Foundations and Social Welfare in the Twentieth Century
        (pp. 158-181)

        Foundations have been involved with a diverse group of programs and services referred to by a variety of terms, includingsocial welfare services, welfare services, social services,andhuman services.The termsocial welfarehas been the most widely used over the twentieth century, although its specific definition has varied over that time period, and its use has recently waned in some contexts. Social welfare has been an important focus for American foundations since the initial establishment of this organizational form.

        Definitions ofsocial welfarevary. Relatively narrow definitions usually equate social welfare with services to the poor or needy....

      • 9 The Role of Foundations in Shaping Social Welfare Policy and Services: The Case of Welfare Reform
        (pp. 182-204)

        Foundations play a key but often overlooked role in influencing and implementing social welfare policy. They shape knowledge and preferences for policy solutions by funding specific kinds of research, driving community development initiatives, and supporting selected forms of social services. Strategic involvement and monitoring of public policy debates and thoughtful responses to policy changes are crucial for them to meet their goals in a changing environment. This is especially important in areas of social welfare in which government is heavily involved. In this chapter we use the case of the 1996 welfare reform legislation to explore the charitable (that is,...

    • International

      • 10 The State and International Philanthropy: The Contribution of American Foundations, 1919–1991
        (pp. 205-236)

        The historian Eric Hobsbawm has called the period from the end of World War I to the end of the cold war the “short twentieth century.”¹ At the start of the period covered here, few professionally staffed, multipurpose foundations of any kind existed. Beginning with the interwar period, however, private foundations proliferated and became increasingly engaged with issues that extended beyond America’s borders. By the 1990s the number of U.S. foundations working internationally, or addressing international issues through domestic grant making, had expanded significantly. Today, more than 60 percent of the one thousand largest grant-making foundations in the United States...

      • 11 For the World’s Sake: U.S. Foundations and International Grant Making, 1990–2002
        (pp. 237-261)

        The last decade of the twentieth century and the first few years of this new century have been marked by significant global changes. The move to more open societies marked symbolically by the fall of the Berlin Wall and animated by widespread democratization movements presented foundations with new grant-making prospects. These openings, coupled with governance models that shifted greater responsibility for development to the private sector, spurred foundations to support a variety of institution-building efforts, including supporting civil society in countries around the world. Rapid technological advances made international giving easier; at the same time, this more open and connected...

    • Arts and Culture

      • 12 Foundations as Cultural Actors
        (pp. 262-282)

        America’s largest foundations arrived late on the cultural scene.¹ When the major philanthropic enterprises of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Sage, Harkness, and Rosenwald got under way in the years around 1900, their principal focus was on medicine, public health, education, and social science. Long before these endeavors, however, many wealthy Americans had already been hard at work establishing museums, libraries, symphonies, and opera companies. Foundations were not their preferred vehicle for supporting cultural interests. Only in the 1920s, with foundations well established, did some foundation leaders begin to ponder their own absence from the cultural sector. The head of the Rockefeller Foundation’s...

      • 13 Roles of Foundations and Their Impact in the Arts
        (pp. 283-304)

        In 1957 the Ford Foundation, soon to be followed by other private foundations, launched an arts program aimed at leveraging new forms of support for the arts, establishing the arts as a legitimate recipient of public funds and a relevant policy issue.¹ In a way, Ford’s program was a reaction to the rapid growth of the arts sector. Many new organizations were emerging, established institutions were expanding their services, and there was a growing recognition that the arts could not be sustained by private sector income alone owing to the economic characteristics of the services they provided.² The effects of...

    • Religion

      • 14 The Role of Foundations in American Religion
        (pp. 305-327)

        Although American religion has been studied extensively, little attention has been paid to its financial underpinnings until recently, and even less has been devoted to understanding its relationships with foundations.¹ Given the larger neglect of religion in sociological treatments of nonprofit organizations, it has been easy for scholars to assume that foundations and other centers of philanthropy were relevant to studies of higher education, the arts, health, welfare, and social advocacy but not to religion. This assumption is reinforced by summary statistics suggesting that religion is a relatively small part of total foundation giving and that foundation grants represent a...

    • Social Movements

      • 15 Foundations, Social Movements, and the Contradictions of Liberal Philanthropy
        (pp. 328-346)

        Few issues in the history of organized philanthropy have been as fraught with conflict, controversy, and apparent contradiction as the role of foundations in movements for equal rights, social justice, and political democracy in the twentieth-century United States. Foundations, after all, have been subject to frequent criticism as inherently elite and undemocratic institutions, politically unaccountable, and reliant for their very existence on an economic system that produces huge concentrations of individual and corporate wealth. Run by highly educated professionals and governed by well-networked members of what sociologist C. Wright Mills has memorably called the “power elite,” the most prominent hold...

      • 16 Consolidating Social Change: The Consequences of Foundation Funding for Developing Social Movement Infrastructures
        (pp. 347-368)

        The crux of the dilemma regarding social movement philanthropy is that despite expressed good intentions, foundation funding for social movements is thought to be inherently conservative, channeling movement groups in more moderate directions with the consequence that social dissent is diffused.¹ One version of this narrative posits that such heavy-handedness on the part of foundation funders is a more or less explicit strategy as they seek to ensure social stability and thus their elite standing in society. A different account, which leads to roughly the same result, is that the moderating influence of foundation support reflects the tendency of all...

  7. Part III Conclusion

    • 17 Foundations and Public Policy
      (pp. 371-387)

      The broad restructuring of the American state, together with the evolution of public policy toward foundations and the nonprofit sector in general, are changing the capacity of foundations to support policy reform, innovation, and social change. Foundations operate in an increasingly complex environment that reflects the diversification of the American government’s policy tools. For operating nonprofit organizations, such policy tools include contracting with nonprofit and for-profit organizations, tax deductions and credits, loans, and bonds. For foundations, such tools have long included the tax deductibility of donations, which promotes the creation of foundations, and the greatly reduced tax on foundation assets....

    • 18 Looking Forward: American Foundations between Continuity and Change
      (pp. 388-402)

      Over their long history, American foundations have created a considerable list of positive contributions to society, as the contributors to this book have shown. Foundations have also had a long time in which to record controversy, false starts, inconsistency, disappointment, futility, and sometimes failure. The American public has both celebrated and criticized foundations. It has celebrated them chiefly for their philanthropic contributions, their support of innovations, their sometimes critical support for new institutions, practices, policies, and creative individuals, and for new ideas generally. Foundations have also made vital (though too often ignored) efforts to control, invest, and preserve the traditional...

  8. Appendixes

    • Appendix A: Data Sources
      (pp. 403-404)
    • Appendix B: Cleaning the Foundations Data Set for Chapter 3
      (pp. 405-405)
    • Appendix C: Descriptive Information: The Civil Rights and Social Action Sector, 2001
      (pp. 406-408)
  9. References
    (pp. 409-436)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 437-438)
  11. Index
    (pp. 439-457)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. None)