The Foundation as Change Agent

This morning I read a wonderful article from The Christian Science Monitor celebrating the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100th anniversary .  Created as one of the “big three” foundations — Carnegie Corporation and Russell Sage Foundation being the other two — the Rockefeller Foundation has served as a powerful philanthropic force both in the United States and abroad for a century.  Equal to its generous support of thousands of charitable endeavors, the Foundation in and of itself has proven to be a change agent by inspiring thousands of philanthropists to invest fortunes in the valuable work of the third-sector.

What inspiration can we as grantseekers take from reflecting upon Rockefeller’s history and legacy?  From this articles, I gleaned the following:

  1. If the rules don’t apply, find new rules.  John D. Rockefeller first tried to create his foundation through an act of Congress.  When that didn’t pan out, he simply turned to the laws of New York State — far easier to navigate.  The important mission for him was to get the foundation up and running, no matter the pathway to success.
  2. Its about ideas, not charity.   The Rockefeller Foundation has always practiced mission-driven philanthropy. Rather than just contributed the earnings of the foundation for public good, Mr. Rockefeller and his heirs have consistently focused on solving core problems where the solution could bring the greatest impact.
  3. Be flexible.  Stay nimble.  The Rockefeller Foundation made venture philanthropy cool before the phrase “venture philanthropy” ever existed.  By adopting a broad mission and mandate, both Mr. Rockefeller and his heirs have been able to respond to an entire host of problems and issues over the years– environmental, political, social, economic.
  4. Inspire by example.  Now entering its 100th year, the Foundation is now the 16th largest US Foundation, eclipsed by those who followed such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or The Ford Foundation.  

Link here to read the full article:



One comment

  1. Feeling like a miner who just struck gold. Thank you John for these shiny nuggets (and I don’t just mean the music picks) which illuminate the dark but critical art of grant writing. Simple yet big ideas all wonderfully “framed.” Particularly love having fun on the bus – no doubt the best way to serve one’s mission and sanity.
    Appreciatively, Cliff

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