Private and family foundations

Authored by: Diana Leat

The Routledge Companion to Philanthropy

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415783255
eBook ISBN: 9781315740324
Adobe ISBN: 9781317579717


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Philanthropic foundations are undergoing a global renaissance. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it was estimated that three-quarters of the wealthiest Americans had their own foundation (Forbes, 2000). Since then, the idea has attracted evermore interest; over the last two decades, foundations, as the formal organized form of philanthropy, have seen unprecedented global growth (Anheier and Leat, 2013). Our understanding of foundations as an organizational form, however, remains limited. Alternatively described as ‘giraffes’, strange and improbable organizational creates, (Nielsen, 1972: 3), or as ‘Pandora’s Boxes’, organizations whose mythic properties and outward appeal need to be handled with care (Jung and Harrow, 2015: 50), foundations are currently one of the most unrestricted organizational forms (Anheier and Daly, 2007). As such, this chapter provides an overview of what constitutes a philanthropic foundation, and why individuals and families create foundations. Thereafter, it explores the different ways in which foundations work and the opportunities and challenges they present. Throughout this chapter, the focus is on ‘private’ and ‘family’ foundations. These are widely perceived as the sectors’ ‘rich relations’ (Weissert and Knott, 1995); their ‘poor cousins’ (Hodgson and Knight, 2010), the community foundations are discussed later on in this volume (Harrow et al., Chapter 19).

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