Suggested Strategies: Philanthropy's Role - Advancing the Common Good PDF Print E-mail

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 full report.

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 support institutions.

1.1 Acknowledge the centrality of the Common Good and define the core values that motivate your foundation’s work.

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.


Material on this site is based on the report Foundations for the Common Good. You are invited to download a complimentary copy or purchase the printed report.

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