Foundation leaders can improve their
work by explicitly rooting it in basic values that are widely shared
in our society, by understanding how their specific missions relate
to the broader Common Good, by working explicitly to serve such
broader purposes, and by making use of a wide variety of strategies.
The challenge for foundations is to
step back from their organizations as they know them, and to look
afresh at how to locate their specific concerns in a larger vision of
the Common Good and values. The challenge is to see beyond their
mission as a discrete package of concerns, and to treat that mission
as part of a complex interwoven fabric. It is by seeing that larger
picture that a foundation can create an exciting new context for its
interests, and redesign its programs so they will have a greater
impact. By doing so, the foundation will better align itself with
the grand mission of philanthropy and find itself truly role-driven.
The call to role-driven philanthropy is
for each foundation, regardless of its specific focus, to re-center
and embed its work in the basic raison d’être shared
by all foundations: to serve the Common Good. It is a call for
foundations to “look beyond the trees” of their specific
programs and activities, and to see and communicate about “the
forest” – to see and address the big-picture significance
of their work through new understandings of the ways in which their
concerns are impacted by larger dynamics and the ways in which their
activities can be designed to affect those broader factors.
This is also a call for each foundation
to define its place within its specific context and in philanthropy’s
relationships with other institutions that also pursue the Common
Good in various ways, such as government, nonprofit organizations,
faith-based institutions, businesses and other foundations. And it
is a call for foundations to determine the paths they can most
productively take to advance the Common Good, given the dynamic
context in which they operate.
Suggestions are fully elaborated in the
SUGGESTED STRATEGY 1:
Seek clarity about how your foundation intends to serve the Common Good
beyond simply serving a narrower mission.
Foundations should draw their authority and informing guidance
from basic shared values in serving the broader Common Good no matter
what their specific mission. The Common Good is best served by
grantmaking to advance change as well as to provide charity and
1.1 Acknowledge the centrality
of the Common Good and define the core values that motivate your
1.2 Revisit your mission
statement and seek clarity about how your foundation defines and
frames mission in the context of philanthropy’s broad role.
1.3 Assess and elaborate your
overall grantmaking strategies in the context of larger definitions
of the foundation’s role.
1.4 Consider grantmaking for
programs that intend to explicitly instill, reinforce, and animate
Common Good values
1.5 Support efforts that bring
grantees’ values to the fore.