DIALOGUES ON CIVIC PHILANTHROPY
P E R F E C T I N G O U R G R A N T S
a project of:
HUDSON INSTITUTE’S BRADLEY CENTER FOR PHILANTHROPY AND CIVIC RENEWAL
THE COUNCIL ON FOUNDATIONS
THE PETTUS-CROWE FOUNDATION
THE ASSOCIATION OF SMALL FOUNDATIONS
BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION
ACHELIS & BODMAN FOUNDATIONS
online at www.civicphilanthropy.net
Grants, Grantors, Grantees:
What is the meaning of a grant? What obligation – what sort of
relationship – does it imply for grantors and grantees?
TRANSCRIPT OF THE DISCUSSION
July 21, 2005
12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
The Foundation Center
New York, NY
Natalie Ambrose Niamani Mutima
Director, Emerging Issues and Strategic Director, Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group
Planning, Council on Foundations
Richard Cavanagh Vice President and Executive Director, Altman
President and CEO, The Conference Board, Inc. Foundation
Irene Crowe William Schambra
President, Pettus-Crowe Foundation, Inc. Executive Director, Bradley Center for
Philanthropy and Civic Renewal;
Christine DeVita Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
President, Wallace Foundation
Joseph Dolan Research Assistant, Hudson Institute’s Bradley
Executive Director, The Achelis and Bodman Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal
James Allen Smith
Sara Engelhardt Waldemar A. Nielsen Professor of Philanthropy,
President, The Foundation Center Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership,
Deborah Brody Hamilton
Director of Member Services, Association of Timothy Walter
Small Foundations Chief Executive Officer, Association of Small
Senior Vice President for Communications, Lowell Weiss
Marketing, and Product Development, The Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer, Bill &
Foundation Center Melinda Gates Foundation
Amy Kass A. Keith Whitaker
Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute; Senior Managing Trustee, Morton Foundation;
Lecturer, University of Chicago Research Fellow, Center on Wealth and
Philanthropy, Boston College
Sharon B. King
President, F. B. Heron Foundation Eugene R. Wilson
Former Vice President, Kaufmann Foundation
President, Fund for the City of New York Mona Younis
Program Officer, International Human Rights
AMY KASS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the third of our series of six dialogues on civic philanthropy
and thank you all very much for being with us today. Before beginning our conversation, let me give
special thanks to several people.
First to the sponsors of these dialogues and the larger project of which they are a part, namely, the
Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Achelis
and Bodman Foundations, the Pettus-Crowe Foundation, the Council on Foundations, and the
Association of Small Foundations. We are honored to have people from each of these organizations here
Second, thank you to the Foundation Center for hosting this event. We are all beneficiaries of the
generous and able efforts of several people in particular - Cheryl Loe and Mary Serbe, and most
especially, the president of the Foundation Center, Sara Engelhardt.
To Sara, in fact, we owe double thanks. In addition to providing support and administrative assistance,
she has provided intellectual succor, in private conversations with the planners of this event, and as you
are all aware, through the very thoughtful written contribution she has produced for our session.
Third, let me also thank the other writers who are responsible for seeding the ground for our
conversation - Joe Dolan and Gene Wilson. And unbeknownst to himself, Craig Dykstra.
Actually I should give personal thanks to Craig Dykstra, who many, many years ago encouraged my
own interest in civic life, and via the Lilly Endowment’s Tocqueville Seminars on Civic Leadership and,
later, its Project on Civic Reflection, supported my own fledgling efforts to do something about it.
That’s no doubt why his piece came immediately to mind when I read the reflections of our colleagues.
Finally, thanks go to Krista Shaffer, our project manager, who has, as always, shouldered the largest
burden with her characteristic grace, intelligence, and equanimity.
Though the Foundation Center has very thoughtfully provided each of us with a list of who’s who
around the table, it would still be nice to have each of you introduce yourself, and in doing so, if I may,
to identify not only the organization with which you are affiliated, but very, very briefly where you
locate yourself on the large philanthropic landscape. Are you, for example, a grantor? A grantee? A
researcher? A program officer? How do you identify yourself?
Krista. Do you want to start?
KRISTA SHAFFER: I didn’t realize this was the hot seat. I’m Krista Shaffer with the Bradley Center
for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal at Hudson Institute. And I am professionally a grant - well, a
grantee and a researcher. Personally, I’m also a grantor, but that’s personal, not really in a professional
IRENE CROWE: All right. I’m Irene Crowe with the Pettus-Crowe Foundation, and, you know, I find
myself as both grantor and grantee because of the relationship. A number of grants I give are in
biomedical ethics and then women and AIDS. And I find that it’s really impossible to be one, in some
ways, without the other.
Now, the contract part doesn’t obtain so much, but certainly the gift one does. But I don’t think I can
function without that kind of relationship obtaining. So, that’s where I end up.
EUGENE R. WILSON: I’m Gene Wilson, retired from the Kaufmann Foundation, and prior to that life,
I was at the Arco Foundation in Los Angeles, and prior to that life, I was a fundraiser for about 17 years
in higher education.
So I learned as a fundraiser that I didn’t want to be like those arrogant bastards that thumped my nose
when I went in to make an application. And hopefully that carried with me when I got on the other side
of the desk. I tried always to hire staff people who had also been fundraisers in whatever their expertise
was to help them be a little bit more humble in the way they approached the grant seeker.
SARA ENGELHARDT: I’m Sara Engelhardt at the Foundation Center. I guess I’m backwards from
Gene’s experience, and many other people’s. I started out as a grant maker. I was at Carnegie for about
20 years doing program work and also as a grants manager. And now at the Foundation Center, of
course, we do almost nothing but ask foundations for support for our work.
And so, I’ve seen both sides and am very interested to hear about the conversation around people’s
experiences on both sides, because I think it’s going to be a very rich one.
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: I guess I’m a grant maker sandwich in a way - the pieces of bread on either
side are grant seeking. I was, in an earlier incarnation, at the American Enterprise Institute for quite a
while. Obviously, that is a think tank that is a beneficiary of grants.
And for 11 years I was at the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, which is the namesake of the particular
center that I now direct at the Hudson Institute. At Bradley, I was a program officer and hence, a grantor.
Now I’m at Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal and, once again,
beholden to foundations.
MONA YOUNIS: I’m a program officer at the [unintelligible] Gilmore Foundation, and until last week
I was the coordinator of the International Human Rights Funders Group, an international network of
funders of human rights.
And you’ve caught me, fortunately, today on a good day. Usually when I’m asked that question, I
answer I’m a self-hating funder. But today I’m feeling just fine. I’m not declining anybody doing
excellent work, I’m not having to call anybody - no, sorry, there isn’t enough money. Goodbye. So I’m
ROBERT CAVANAGH: My name is Dick Cavanagh and, like the others, I also have multiple
personalities. My day job is that I work something called the Conference Board, which is a not-for-
profit that, among other things, tells us if consumer confidence goes up or that the economic indicators
are down. But one of the things we do is a census of corporate giving and have been doing that since the
1920s. And we have a large number of programs for corporate foundation leaders.
So in that sense I guess I’m a chronicler of foundations. We are grant receivers, although less than 2%
of our budget comes from the world of philanthropy. The rest from other kinds of sources.
One of my night jobs is I’m a trustee of a relatively new small foundation called Gofersh [phonetic]
Foundation. So I guess I’m an overseer of grants. And prior to coming to the Conference Board, I was a
Dean, which meant that I spent almost all of my time trying to get to know people like you.
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: I’m Jim Smith and like others around the table I’ve done diverse things, worn
diverse hats, sat in different seats. I suppose the two most distinctive things that I would bring to the
discussion today are that I spent much of my career in operating foundations, starting at the 20th Century
Fund, working at the Getty, and I’ve done some grant making along the way.
So, in a sense I’m a contractor. The other thing that I’ve done that I suspect most others haven’t, I began
my academic career by studying medieval and ancient charity. So I have thought about the gift
relationship in a very different context than I did as a program officer or as head of a foundation.
SHARON KING: My name is Sharon King and I serve as the president of the Heron Foundation, which
is located in New York. It seems like a simple question but it’s harder than - at least I found it a little
hard to answer.
Clearly, I am a grantee, representing the non-profit boards that I sit on. So I feel that and maybe before
my Heron experience I would say I was a grant maker, because that was the tool that we used to make
the mission real. But at Heron I guess I am an endowment for mission maker because we are really
committed to using more than grants in pursuit of mission.
So that’s what I am. I never thought of it that way before, but there it is. And I am a trustee.
TIMOTHY WALTER: Hi. I’m Tim Walter. I, in my day job, run the Association of Small
Foundations. So I’ll be sure to leave you with a brochure.
I think of myself, you know, as sort of a scout and a midwife, or a facilitator, and so I think that’s
probably how I’d describe my job. So I use these conversations to deepen my own sort of thinking about
philanthropy, but I’m also just sort of constantly on the lookout for ideas and conversations that would
help other grant makers deepen their own relationship with their giving and their grant making, both in
terms of reducing hassles, but also finding a deeper sense of meaning in what they’re doing. Then we
create experiences for them to meet those needs.
And, let me just add, I’ll be joined shortly, I hope, by Deborah Brody Hamilton, who is our director of
member services and has 20 years experience working for a variety of philanthropy support
LOWELL WEISS: My name is Lowell Weiss and I’m with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I
have a sort of fancy, great, inflated title of Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer, but I’m really here in the
role of a program officer. A third of my time is managing our charitable sectors support program, which
is a tiny fly on an 800-pound gorilla. It’s a very modest program, but some of the folks that I have
grantee relationships with and hope to are represented here. And so I’m very glad to be here.
NIAMANI MUTIMA: My name is Niamani Mutima and I’m the Director of the African Grantmakers’
Affinity Group. We’re a funders network -- a relatively new one -- of foundations that fund in Africa.
I have been both a grant seeker and a grant maker. Prior to coming to work with the Affinity Group I
worked for about 20 years in development in sub-Saharan African. And as part of that administered a
USAID funded grants program, which was certainly a horse of a different nature.
In terms of my work now with the Affinity Group, we do receive grants and, you know, seek support,
but I think our perspective now is more looking at the impact that foundations are having on
development in Africa and sort of, you know, how those grants and that relationship and all of that come
So I’m very happy to be here today. I really look forward to having a chance to think with you all about
KAREN ROSA: I’m Karen Rosa and unlike many of the people who’ve spoken already I’ve always
been on the philanthropic side, so always on the giving side. I started out working for an individual
philanthropist who had a series of operating foundations. Then I was at the Rockefeller Foundation, and
now I’m Executive Director of the Altman Foundation, which is New York City focused foundation.
But we also raise a lot of money for our grantees for projects that we care about, so we do a lot in terms
of funders’ breakfasts and raising money in that way for them.
I’m also Chair this year of the New York Regional Association of Grant Makers, which is a membership
association of 270 grant makers - or more than 270 here in the region - international, local, and national.
And I’m delighted to be here. Thank you.
JOYCE INFANTE: Hi. I’m Joyce Infante. I’m with the Foundation Center. You already heard from
Sara. My role’s a little bit different here. I’m the communications officer for the center, and I’m very
involved in really working on programming to bring grant makers and grant seekers together to really
talk about ways they could work together more effectively, which is very relevant to what we’ll be
discussing here today. So I’m very interested in hearing some of the views of those who worked more
directly with the grant seeking audiences and maybe can help them stimulate some other programs that
we do here for the center, bringing the groups together on both sides of the philanthropic equation.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: I’m Keith Whitaker and I guess, unlike most folks here who have done many
different things over the space of time, I’m trying to do everything all at once. I have three jobs. I work
as a philanthropic advisor so that I advise grant makers, people at foundations, in my capacity at Calvert
Advisory Services, which I’m grateful for sending me here today.
I also am a researcher. I work at the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College where Paul
Schervisch and I are writing a book on religion and philanthropy. And I’ve been managing trustee of my
family’s private operating foundation as well for the last ten years. We fund our own programs centered
And I guess, overall, the thing that holds these various pursuits together is that I’m pursuing a journey
similar to the kind that Tim described of trying to understand better the role of wealth and happiness, and
trying to help myself and others in that pursuit.
JOSEPH DOLAN: I’m Joe Dolan with the Achelis and Bodman Foundations, two separate, independent
foundations. We have a staff of two people and one part-time secretary every day. I think some of you
here can relate to that, perhaps.
I’ve been on all sides of the aisles from fundraising to involved in what non-profit groups over the years,
and in grant making for the last 20 years. In my non-profit world, by the way, a lot of my experience in
various jobs were in the field of addiction -- alcohol and drug abuse -- both at the federal and local
CHRISTINE DEVITA: Good afternoon. I’m Christine DeVita. I’m the President of the Wallace
Foundation. Unlike virtually I think almost all of you, I’ve never raised money professionally. I’m a
lawyer by training and may be the only Girl Scout in the entire world who had difficulty selling Girl
Scout cookies. And so I suspect it’s probably good that I’ve never been in charge of raising money for
The Wallace Foundation is a private foundation of national grant making scope, based here in New York
City, and in that capacity, I suppose we are, Amy, in your classification system, a grantor. But our
mission is really to help develop and share effective ideas and practices, and those ideas and practices
come from the work of our grantees. And so while I don’t necessarily think of ourselves as a grantee, I
do think of ourselves as a beneficiary of those of that work, without which we could not fulfill the
mission to share effective ideas and practices.
MARY MCCORMICK: We could maybe compete on who’s sold the least. I bought more than I sold of
those chocolate mint cookies. I’m Mary McCormick. I’m head of the Fund for the City of New York,
which was created in 1968 by the Ford Foundation when they built their very handsome building on
42nd Street. And this agreement between George Bundy and John Lindsey recognized that they had an
obligation to the city in which they were headquartered. So in lieu of real estate taxes, they decided to
create the fund, to stir innovation and to improve the quality of life.
And they put the fund for the first year within the Office of Management and Budget in the City of New
York, and for those of you who know large bureaucracies, in theory it’s a great idea. In practice it can’t
And so we migrated out from there and have evolved into a operating foundation. We have 260 people
on our staff who are about innovation and its implementation, and I often think of us as a boundary
organization because we care deeply about government and have a profound respect for those who work
in government, but equally deeply about those in the non-profit world and who they are, and on so many
issues that we all care about. Those are the two groups that are out there doing and caring and most
often they are, or often they can be, in a very un-collaborative relationship, and so we have done many
things to try to get government and non-profits kind of in alignment on these issues.
We make grants but we raise much more in money. Thank goodness. We lend about 20 million a year
to non-profits in bridge financing. We incubate new groups and then we are very active in trying to
innovate with respect to technology to benefit non-profits.
NATALIE AMBROSE: Hi. I’m Natalie Ambrose and I’m with the Council on Foundations. I have a
very highfaluting title, but it’s really just many hats and chief bottle washer. I’m Director of Emerging
Trends and Strategic Planning.
Obviously, my perspective from the Council is that of one of the many - there are other organizations
here that represent the growing and morphing infrastructure - philanthropic infrastructure organizations
for the sector. –before joining the Council -- I’ve been there about three years -- I really was new to the
foundation field and the grantor/grantee perspective. But I’ve learned a lot. There’s a lot to learn.
Like Tim and Keith and other people mentioned, as my role is in emerging issues, I like to read a lot,
listen a lot, and go to a lot of events. Washington is full of opportunities. I’ve gained a few pounds
through the process. But it’s very interesting. I try to just be the staff person that goes and listens to the
conversations out there, to who’s saying what, who the experts are, and then to relay that back to staff
for content for whatever, you know, publications and conferences.
This particular topic really interested me because I remembered when I was a real newbie to the field a
few years, three years ago when I started with the council, I went to an event in Washington that NCRP
held - the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy. And it was a local meeting between local
grantors and grantees. And I was really surprised at by the tension in the room and the kind of, like, you
don’t understand us, you don’t understand our needs.
–So, since I really had no prior experience in the philanthropic field, I try to always to be really objective
when I see the sector, and try to think how the public perceives us, and again, about the lack of
knowledge of really how non-profit and foundations work.
So it was really interesting for me to go to that event. I went, of course, running back to the office
saying, wow, there’s a real thing here between grantor and grantee relationships. And they said, yeah,
yeah, that’s a trend that’s been going on a long time. I think it’s important to get the discussion out there
on this and I don’t think there are enough discussions going on about this. So it should be very
AMY KASS: Thank you all. To officially introduce myself in this context, I’m Amy Kass and I’m a
Fellow at the Hudson Institute and a long time faculty member at the University of Chicago. And I
suppose it’s in the last capacity that I would see myself as a grant maker. For I have, for more years than
I care to remember, been on the University’s merit-based scholarship committee, as well as on various
fellowship committees. So if a fellowship or a scholarship could be regarded as a grant, then I guess I’m
Also in my capacity as a member of the National Council of the National Endowment of the Humanities,
I had the dubious distinction of helping to give away the government’s money to any number of grant
But as a scholar and researcher, I have also been, in fact I have mainly been, a grant seeker.
Now, let me briefly introduce this session. As indicated in the invitation you all received, this project
takes its bearings from the current unrest and the great promise in the philanthropic community today.
Its immediate purpose is to engage people from across the philanthropic spectrum -- seasoned warriors,
as well as newcomers and potential newcomers -- in focused conversations about fundamental questions
and issues, which, thanks to the current unrest, are also somewhat urgent.
Our ultimate purpose is to promote more civil, thoughtful, open, and ongoing discourse about the
philanthropic sector as a whole, and thereby, encourage more responsible, responsive, civically
meaningful, and public-spirited philanthropy.
Our topic today, as you well know, is “Grants, Grantors, and Grantees,” questions about which go to the
very heart of the philanthropic enterprise. As practitioners you have probably experienced firsthand, or
at the very least can well envision how heated and polarizing discussions of such matters can become, no
doubt precisely because they are so important, - indeed inescapable. For we all know that available
resources seldom match needs, hopes, or expectations, neither the grantors’ nor the grantees’; and we
also know that there are not only multiple “right” ways to make good decisions, but multiple and
competing “right” causes or projects that deserve attention.
Should one, for example, devote grants to the goods of existence? Namely, basic needs such as food,
clothing, shelter, and medical care. Or should one foster the goods of developed existence? (For
example, the arts, culture, research, parks, museums, public buildings, education and so on.) Should we
respond to local and familiar needs, or the petitions of strangers? Obviously, I could go on and on about
the kinds of things that lead to heated discussion and debate.
But precisely because there are no urgent decisions looming before us this afternoon, we have an
opportunity to step back from the fray and reflect together on the attitudes, or more precisely, the
understandings or beliefs that often, albeit tacitly, inform our decisions, as well as our dissentions.
Our model, as you were forewarned, is discussion among peers rather than experts talking to amateurs.
With the help of the essays we have all read, I will try to spark discussion and keep it on track by making
a few observations and by asking some pointed questions. But I invite you all to do the same. If
somebody speaks and you have a question, you don’t have to turn to me to be acknowledged. Just ask.
As this conversation is being taped and will subsequently be edited and posted on our website as a way,
among other things, to extend its reach, for the sake of the record, let me simply say that I will assume
that each of us will be speaking for ourselves as individuals and civically engaged citizens, not as
representatives of our respective organizations.
So, now let me really start. Two large questions commend our attention. First, what is the meaning of a
grant? Or, as Craig Dykstra I think more felicitously put it, “what kind of human transaction or
engagement is taking place when a grant is made?” And second, what sort of relationship does the
making of a grant imply or create, or even allow, between grantors and their grantees?
Let’s begin with the first question. Though I know it runs into the other, let’s at least begin by trying to
keep them separable. Our writers have seeded the ground well on this. Though they cannot be said to
simply disagree with each other, their accents or emphases are clearly somewhat different. Let me
briefly summarize what I take to be their views.
Joe Dolan seems flat out to equate grants with contracts, on the one hand, and with investments, on the
other. But he does differentiate grants as investments from other financial investments, as the return on
grants is expected to go to the beneficiary or program recipient, not the investor.
Sara Engelhardt takes her bearings from the, for her, evident differences between grants and gifts, which
differences are mainly a function of their different sources. Grants, she suggests, are from funds held in
trust for public good, whose very publicity necessarily entails public scrutiny and hence involves careful
reporting, strategy, planning, and so on.
Gifts by contrast, she suggests, are from personal sources whose very privacy makes possible,
presumably among other things, the giver’s anonymity, and involve matters more closely associated with
the heart than the head, such as compassion, generosity, or love.
And she adds, the worth of a grant is understandably then –“understandably” is my term, not hers -- a
function of its results and doesn’t, as with a gift, inhere in the giving.
Gene Wilson seems tacitly to agree with Sara’s addendum, namely, that the ultimate worth of a grant is a
function of its results. But on the meaning of a grant, whether it is a gift or a contract, an investment or a
sponsorship, he seems basically agnostic because -- and again, this is entirely my inference -- it
ultimately does not matter.
Then there’s Craig Dykstra, who, by contrast, seems to be far more idealistic than all of the above.
Though he seems basically to agree with Joe Dolan that a grant is a contract and that it is a special sort of
investment, and with Sara that it is not the same thing as a gift, “Still,” he adds with evident conviction --
and I quote –“a grant can and should have at least a hint of the character of a gift, in the sense that grants
(as opposed to sheer quid pro quo contracts), convey appreciation for the grantees’ actual and potential
contribution to the common good, and is thus a sign of gratitude for the mutual engagement between the
grantor and the grantee in a larger common enterprise and a shared vision of the good.”
That’s a sentence and a half. It took me a long time to figure out what I think he’s trying to say. But I
think the very language that he uses conveys his different understanding.
Okay, if I have misrepresented any of our writers I invite you, please, to speak up. If not, let me simply
ask all of you this: Do any of these opinions resonate with your own? What do you think is the meaning
of a grant? What sort of human transaction do you think one is engaged in when one makes a grant?
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: I think in distinguishing a grant, contract, and gift, we must both make
distinctions and then see what is similar about all three. They are all exchange relationships but they
differ in the nature of the exchange and the expectations that the relationship creates.
You asked specifically about a grant. Let me strip away our modern philanthropic assumptions about the
grant and revert to, I think the much older and useful notions of what a grant is. Thinking in medieval
legal terms, though I haven’t unpacked my medieval legal books and looked at my Pollack and Maitland
lately, a grant is a concession of rights and privileges with expectations that something will be done with
that concession. It partakes of the elements of a contract and of the elements of a gift.
The interesting thing -- and this is where some of Craig Dykstra’s language resonates -- it is that the
grant is made with the expectation that something of public benefit -- I’m interjecting modern language
here -- will be accomplished. We could move closer to the present and think of land grant universities. I
think in our contemporary foundation usage we have perhaps neglected an understanding of some of
these older ideas that actually let go of the money, let go of the resource, so that there is a domain of
responsibility that the grantee has.
We, I think, in making our contemporary grants are much closer to a contractual relationship. And we
use the language of the grant as a kind of vestigial language when in fact our grants letters are much
more like contract letters. I could say something about the gift, but I think I’ll stop there with that idea
on the grant.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: How would you write the letter if you say we concede to you $10,000 to - you
know, is that what it would mean?
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: You would do it - yeah, and - and say it in Latin as well.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Even better. Then they really won’t understand what you’re saying.
(Laughter) Yeah, so - but how is that different then from the gift?
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: I think we can talk about the history of the gift as well. I think the
expectations in the gift relationship are different from those in the historic grant relationship.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: The giver doesn’t expect what the conceder expects.
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: Not necessarily.
AMY KASS: –For the sake of clarity, could you give us another sentence about what you mean by
concession of rights and privileges? Who is conceding what and to whom?
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: In the Middle Ages, it would have been a sovereign authority. A lord. And
the assumption would be that in conceding to someone within your retinue, a piece of land with rights
and privileges pertaining to it, the person would control that asset, but in order to do something of use
and benefit to both parties.
AMY KASS: So the grantor concedes?
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: The grantor concedes, yes.
AMY KASS: Okay. And the grantee is expected to do certain things but has the ultimate authority over
whatever it is that he’s been given?
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: With all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto, with its - again, that’s
AMY KASS: Okay, and you want to say that, by contrast, today, it’s just much more like a contract.
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: That’s correct.
AMY KASS: Okay.
SARA ENGELHARDT: I’m wondering how you reconcile that with the content -- let’s fast forward to
today -- particularly in a climate where people are raising questions about the right of grantors to give
funding for certain kinds of things or in certain ways. I think anyone who has been a consigner of
money without - perhaps with expectations, but unwritten expectations or unexpressed in the process of
making the grant, might be very vulnerable to losing, for our society, the very structure of grant making
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: The bureaucratic context of modern grant making is very different. I think
that’s why we have come much closer to contractual relationships and have moved away from that
historic grant making.
SARA ENGELHARDT: So you just see this as an ideal, not necessarily the way it should be, but an
ideal for how it could be.
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: I’m not sure that I’d use the word ideal. I think I’m merely reflecting on the
difference as modern philanthropy has evolved, that we now necessarily operate more in a contracting
than a grant-making environment.
AMY KASS: Jim is an historian. He doesn’t make judgments. (Laughter)
MARY MCCORMICK: Some evidence to support what Jim has said, and that is having worked in city
government and observed city government and for years having heard despairing comments about the
city’s contracting process and its bureaucracy, in the last five or six years, particularly as foundations
have come together to pool their resources for special initiatives, they’ve actually come up with
processes -- we’re really getting to Sara’s point -- that out-bureaucratize what the city is doing.
That the complaints are worse about what foundations have created for accountability, for transparency,
for certainty with respect to how each dollar is spent, than ever existed with government. So that there -
it’s a critical, fundamental issue here.
SHARON KING: I’ve read all the papers and as I was reading them I sort of agreed with them all. That
seemed to me that they all presented, you know, good arguments for different approaches to thinking
about a grant. And so I guess my bottom line was - I mean I think it’s valuable for the field, it’s valuable
for a democracy, it’s valuable for philanthropy to have different points of view on these things.
And that I would hope that a dialogue would not lead us to a place where we come up with a
recommendation of one way of doing this versus it’s better or not than another, because the
circumstances are different. And you can look at each of the approaches that people are talking about
and see where they’ve really spun out of control, either for lack of oversight, or becoming too legalistic
about what they do.
But it seems to me sort of in the course of things that can be and should be supported in this society,
there’s probably room, and there should be room, for different approaches to our concept of a grant.
And then my other just comments, and I want to get this in, is that I see a grant as a tool to accomplish
something. So I would be on the side - more on the side of results somewhere. Either, you know, if I
were doing a - that the opera would continue - this is not me, believe me. That the opera would
continue. It could be a reasonable grant that from my current work that more people - more working
class and low-income people can become homeowners is a result that we would be interested in in our
But what I’ve also learned is that just as a grant is a tool, so, too, do we have other tools available to us
that we don’t talk about. And I’m talking about private foundations. And that if we just focus on that
five or six percent that is termed a grant, that we short-circuit the possibilities of support for non-profits
and for issues than if you would look at that entire endowment and the 95% of what’s sitting there in
support of a mission or an idea. So that’s my - I’ll stop preaching on that.
CHRISTINE DEVITA:. I’m trying to think about whether I can make any public sense of what was just
going through my head. And at the risk of being somewhat simplistic, it’s a very complicated question
because the characterization of something as either a grant or a gift is - often has its derivation in the
mission of the foundation person who is making the exchange, to use someone’s words around here.
And I think oftentimes along the continuum, and I would agree with Sharon that one of the strengths I
think of the sector is that there is a continuum. You can have a continuum where the transaction is in
fact the end in and of itself because the foundation’s mission is the amelioration of some specific need
that the grant in fact ameliorates, and that’s closer to the gift aspect of the continuum because it is an end
And at the other end of the continuum I think there are foundations -- and I’m probably guilty of this --
who think about grants as one means to an end, which end is bigger than that individual grant, much
more on the results contractual side. I just think it’s interesting to think about it in those two ways and
understand that the characterization or the derivation of that characterization really comes from the
mission - the motivation of the person making the gift or the grant.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Can you say something more about the grant as an end in itself? That seemed
to be something that some of the authors denied is possible.
CHRISTINE DEVITA: If the DeVita foundation had as its mission the creation of a soup kitchen in my
neighborhood to feed the hungry. The support of that might be - might be something close to what I’m
A. KEITH WHITAKER: So in that case you - the foundation would be creating a program. It wouldn’t
be giving money to another organization.
CHRISTINE DEVITA: The mechanics -- well, there are 60 different ways to skin the cat. But that’s just
an example. If the mission is to feed the hungry and in some way in which I use my resources to
actually meet that need so people are no longer hungry, that’s kind of one end of the continuum.
If the mission is to, to take an example out of thin air, to help cities restructure, reorganize, and redesign
the way in which they organize and fund their after school programs, then the grants one makes in that
area are more a means to an end than the end in itself, if that makes any sense.
IRENE CROWE: I’m a bit confused by that. And by a whole lot of other issues here. It seems to me
that there may be two things going on. The first is when we’re defining, in these different ways,
contracts and so on and investments, those are, to some extent characteristics, which might be quoted in
the definition. But the original question about the meaning or the significance of a grant seems to me not
quite the same question.
You have been mentioning the nearness of a grant to a gift. And I find myself, certainly learning from
Sara, seeing the distinctions between the head and the heart, and the compassion and the emotions
behind the careful selecting of the gift in and of itself, for the receiver, as a difference.
But when I look at the significance of a grant, it seems to me that you get very close to the issue of, well,
even in the most apparently altruistic situations, the role of the giver, and the sense of psychological
satisfaction that in some ways contaminates it - making it different from a free gift.
I found myself listening to Craig’s argument and saying, well, I wonder if that’s what it means in your
example to have a free gift. And I think he makes a good point that in fact it’s a relationship between -
obviously between the two. And you might even speak of gifting. And his point, as I understand it, is
that the giving, which is an experience rather than a negotiation, I like his way of saying that it ought not
to put oneself above. I’m not sure if that’s the exact phrase but that’s what I understood it to be. I thought
what on earth would that mean?
It seems to me it has to be seeing giving (and the question, of course, would be to what extent grants
partake of this, too), as part of a wider community with both you and the receiver. He mentioned the gift
of grace. But you can also translate that into seeing people, I would say, and also nature, as part - the
meaning of which is part of a larger set of things. And perhaps it’s only there that you get free gifts.
AMY KASS: Irene, are you drawing on what Craig Dykstra says about the near impossibility of a really
charitable gift to suggest that a grant cannot be a free gift? Or, in contrast to Christine, are you
suggesting that there seems not to be a continuum, that is, that you cannot do all of these things and still
call what you are doing making grants? Or, to put the question more simply, does a grant connote, for
you, something very different from a gift, be it a charitable gift or any other sort of a gift?
IRENE CROWE: I take it that Craig is describing -- and certainly it’s a major concern of a man of
religion -- the possibility of having an exchange that is mediated by your understanding of yourself and
the other as part of a wider community of meaning. And in that sense I - my answer would be yes. The
nature of a grant, insofar as it has inherently this difference in power, regardless of its motivation, does
not fall into the same category as a gift.
I think he’s right. You have a continuum where, as you were saying, where grants and gifts in some
ways partake of similar characteristics. But I would see quite a basic difference.
MONA YOUNIS: I think it’s extremely difficult to enter in a complete abstraction, to define what a
grant is. I don’t even think it’s worth trying to do. I think in reality we see it all. As a grant maker, I’ve
seen everything from grants that are pure transactions to grants that are very close to gift giving. And
you wonder - you’re even moved by the grantor and how they - hands off, they just - they were moved
by the issue.
So you can find any - the full spectrum - a whole range of forms that grants take. I think what
determines what particular form it’s going to take really depends on the grantor’s vision of the world
around them and how they relate to the world around them.
Grantors that are very suspicious of the world around and feel like, oh, there’s a lot of money out there
and it’s not being used well, or that grant seekers are self-interested and you have to really keep an eye
on them and what they’re really doing, are going to make grants that are very different than grantors who
view the work of grant seekers as vital to their self-interest in the sense that they’re sharing the same
world. And that to the extent that the grant seekers achieve what it is that they’ve laid out on
beneficiaries as well, because they want to see that change happen and they and their children and the
So I think you’ll - you do. We see it all. It’s all there. And so depending on the vision of the grantor,
too, and how they relate to the world, I think you will see it - the grants will be manifested - different
forms of grants will be given.
I actually think the more important question, besides how they relate to the world, is how they relate -
their notions of relationships. And in relationships we know there are healthy relationships, there are
unhealthy relationships, there are relationships that are exploitative, relationships that are mutually
beneficial, relationships in which both are growing and - there are viable relationships that have potential
for more. And then there are relationships that just have to come to an end. I mean it’s all there.
So the question is, how do you build healthy, vital relationships? And with grant seekers and grant
makers, there’s a difference - of course there are many differences, but one fundamental difference
between the relationship of grant seekers and grant makers and other sorts of relationships is they cannot
separate. Men, women can say forget it. I don’t want any more relationships. I’m out of here. No more
relationships. Grant makers can never be without grant seekers. Grant seekers can never be - unless
they develop good income generating projects and in our field, in human rights, that doesn’t happen.
They’re, you know, stuck together. –They define each other. One cannot exist and be defined in -
without the other. So how do you have a healthy coming together versus an unhealthy, exploitative,
asymmetrical, et cetera?
AMY KASS: Mona, that’s wonderful. But for the moment, let me hold back on what you said about
relationships and press you on what you said about the grant. Do I understand you to be saying that what
a grant is is really a function of the psychological outlook of the grantor?
MONA YOUNIS: I don’t know if it’s psychological. I mean I think there are structural interests as
well. It’s not merely psychological. I think different foundations are differently connected, networked,
in relationship to existing power structures, relationships, et cetera. So there’s that. I mean surely it can
come back to the executive director’s psychological makeup.
AMY KASS: If a person is very optimistic about the world and thinks very kindly of human beings, you
seem to be suggesting, then he might give a grant with no strings attached.
MONA YOUNIS: Yeah, I think -
AMY KASS: Which is much more like a gift.
MONA YOUNIS: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s so much that. I think it’s a matter of how people see
change, how people see opportunities. In human rights, for example, I think funders at some level view
things quite differently when they believe that human beings have rights like economic rights, like the
right to work, like a living wage. Those are rights. They’re not things that you’ve earned or that you
have to, you know, you cannot be deprived of these things and to be deprived of these things are
violations. Oh, just terrible things.
Those kinds of funders with that kind of perspective to the world of how things tick and how things
move, are going to make grants, I think, differently than funders who don’t have that kind of perspective,
who view things perhaps as more, you know, survival of the fittest, perhaps. So the kind of grants they
will make will vary by - accordingly.
AMY KASS: And what they mean by the grant.
MONA YOUNIS: Certainly.
AMY KASS: Bill, you’ve been trying to get in here.
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: Yeah, granted, so to speak, there’s this range of instruments to be used in this
area. I think it’s important to pay attention to Mary’s point earlier, which was that in the foundation field
- and I think it’s probably not just New York, but in many locations and in many contexts, for whatever
reason, foundations are moving into relationships that are more and more of the detailed, contractual
The deliverables are spelled out with ever more clarity and concreteness and the expectations of regular
sort of supervision by foundations, what’s being delivered in the field, those expectations are rising. I
think that trend toward detailed contractual relationships is something to pay attention to, and I must say
I think it’s a - it’s not a good trend.
One could understand if a government is contracting, I think, with non-profits you could understand, yes,
I want it all spelled - this is my money. This is my taxpayer money. I want it all spelled out. I want it,
you know, and the result is, of course, this enormous bureaucracy and all these inefficiencies. But at
least you can say the process is equitable.
It seems to me that in the foundation world you have less concerns with systematic or systemic equity,
and more concern - more ability, more - to make different kinds of gifts, grants, contracts. And we’ve
gotten away from that flexibility to the extent that we, you know, have contracts that are ever more
precise and spelled out.
Now, there is a countertrend to this which is think is - and of course this brings up this other question of
project funding versus general operating support. And again, I think it’s difficult to think about these
things in the abstract, but thinking about my time as a grant maker in Milwaukee, I can tell you that
when we made grants to support the general operations of Family House or Community Enterprises of
Greater Milwaukee Board of whatever, we would have considered it superfluous and burdensome to ask
Cordelia Taylor, who runs Family House, to spell out what she wants to accomplish over the next year.
That would be absurd. We’re in essence supporting Mrs. Taylor for who she was as much as for what
she was going to do.
Contracts have to do with what you’re going to do. Something else needs to describe the grant that’s
supporting someone like Mrs. Taylor, whom you’re supporting because of who she is. And that means
probably a long-term relationship. It means establishing something of a community or recognizing a
community that exists in which both you and Mrs. Taylor live.
But I think that the tensions there are important to wrestle with in this area, rather than simply sort of
saying, well, there’s a bunch of ways of doing it. I think we need to wrestle with the tensions between
SHARON KING: I just want to add one word to this particular conversation and that is we keep talking
about foundations and grant makers and I think we should be more inclusive in who we’re talking about.
We’re talking about philanthropy, and there are donors who may be direct donors or who don’t have
staff and decide for themselves.
And I think, you know, it’s those approaches, those values that get played out in whatever method that
they use to do their gift making or grant making that’s also important. Not everyone uses staff. And
even though it’s not family foundations, others also represent this value. And my sense is that it’s the
values that drive them. That’s what attracts them to this. Except maybe tax help.
But they’re motivated by strong values and they want to base what they do on those. And it could be a
variety of tools that they use even within the same giving program.
JOSEPH DOLAN: Bill makes a good point between operational funding and project funding. And
certainly in our world of grant making, grants for projects we want accountability and measured results
usually. In general operating funds it’s hard to define what you’re going to get for general operating
And - but I still - I really believe that accountability and measured results are belong more with grant
making and grants, whereas gifts may be, for example, of two types. The donation to your local church
is a gift. Your small donation to your local church because you don’t have strings attached. You expect
them to do good work. You’re not going to get a report back. Go to it and do the best you can, no
Likewise, huge gifts to universities and hospitals to set up a new cancer research center, maybe construct
a new building. The implication is that you don’t expect large gifts of that nature -- $30 million or so --
to have strings attached. People at the table and in the papers - you know, the papers I’ve read imply that
go to it, take my large gift, I don’t expect anything in return. I know you’re going to do a good job.
And you know what? I really don’t believe that’s what really happens. I believe –there are behind the
scenes letters of agreement, perhaps contracts we don’t know about, and no one’s going to give away 30
million and not know what’s going to happen down the road.
So in some ways our discussion, gifts versus grants, may be a little fuzzy here.
ROBERT CAVANAGH: You know, when I first went to look at a university I had come from the world
of business and I remember seeing a category called gifts, grants, and contracts, which was in every
university accounting system.
And I remember going to the person who was the head of finance at Harvard and saying, you know,
what are these? You know, what’s the difference among them? And he was kind of curmudgeonly and
he had a great explanation. He said, well, a contract is something where you have to perform in order to
get that particular pot of money. Okay? A grant is something where you have to perform if you ever
hope to get another grant. And a gift is one where you make a best effort to perform so long as the donor
Now - and I think there’s some truth -
AMY KASS: So the grant is the gift that can keep on giving. (Laughter)
ROBERT CAVANAGH: That’s right. Now -
ROBERT CAVANAGH: I was taken by Christine’s question about that there may be some grants that
are ends in themselves. And I think that actually there are a lot of grants that are ends in themselves.
And I guess I’d start where your studies left off with Pope Julius II, who created an entire Vatican on the
basis of indulgences. And the grants were clearly related to something.
I remember when I was a Dean that when Michael Milken was being sentenced by Kimba Wood, so long
as you would write a letter to Judge Wood there was nothing that could be outside the grant making
views of the Milken Foundation. And from what I read in the papers, the CV Starr Foundation may well
be an incredible estate planning corporate control device, just as the Ford Foundation was, you know, 50
So I think there are a lot of grants that are at least ends in themselves that go beyond trying to control the
funds and the benefits, but rather are created because there’s a need on the part of a donor or there’s
some compulsion on the part of a public authority that makes you do that.
I mean every time a Blue Cross goes private, okay, there is a grant, which is required by public policy.
And so I think there are actually a lot of grants that are ends in themselves, but maybe that’s what -
wasn’t what you were thinking about.
CHRISTINE DEVITA: It is exactly what I was thinking about. I do think there are some grants that are
ends in themselves and that there are some grants that are means to an end.
And I was reflecting on Bill’s distinction between the project support and the general operating support
as another way to think about it, and was thinking that perhaps we should acknowledge that there’s
tension in the foundation field if not the philanthropic field -- taking Sharon’s good point that the field is
larger than foundations -- about what the correct role of a foundation is. Whether a foundation exists to
support the not-for-profit sector, you know, to be the ATM machine for the not-for-profit sector, whether
that’s the role of a foundation.
And yet there are contrary views coming into our lexicon about how foundations can choose to have a
role that is more than support for the non-profit sector. I think that tension exists and is related to the
tension between program and general operating, grant, gift, means, ends. And somehow they’re all
related in ways I’m probably not smart enough to connect or articulate. But it just feels that they’re all
similar arguments that are bubbling up.
You’re shaking your head, Amy, like you think you’ve heard this perhaps before.
AMY KASS: No, no, that’s just a nod of understanding. Look, I have a queue here. If anybody wants to
respond directly, please do. Otherwise, let’s hear from Jim, Sara, Mona, Tim, and Gene.
TIMOTHY WALTER: Just real quick. When Henry Ford established his foundation, who was the
beneficiary of the gift? The foundation or the future grantees of the foundation?
CHRISTINE DEVITA: Or the Ford estate. It’s the same people.
TIMOTHY WALTER: Well, all right, pick one that isn’t a robber baron, sort of –(laughter)
CHRISTINE DEVITA: I like robber barons, you know.
TIMOTHY WALTER: Is the recipient of the gift the corporate foundation, the corporate institution, or
is the recipient -
AMY KASS: Saved by the bell.
TIMOTHY WALTER: Yeah. Or would the recipient -
TIMOTHY WALTER: Or is the recipient of the gift the future grantees of the foundation?
CHRISTINE DEVITA: The question is posed in an either or formulation and the answer is clearly both,
I think. I mean there’s direct and indirect, there’s short-term and long-term, and so I don’t - I can’t
answer the question in an either/or formulation because the answer I think is both and.
TIMOTHY WALTER: I’ll stop. It’ll - we’ll come back around to this later. [Unintelligible].
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: Well, I still want to get back to some of the clarification of the gift, grants,
and contract, and the discussion has helped and now I can double back to where I began with perhaps
more clarity than I began.
I think properly understood and properly used, a grant is something that can expand the capacity of the
recipient to behave in autonomous and free way, much as general operating support would. A contract is
something that stipulates a set of expected actions, is far more enforceable than a grant would be. A gift
is something - it creates something else. A set of social ties, a set of communal ties. A grant doesn’t
necessarily do that. A contract creates ties that are legally enforceable, but time or performance limit
ways that gift relationships are not.
They all have expectations but the expectations are very different. They all create relationships, but
again, the relationships are very different. And I think we have to keep that in mind. And the point that
so many have made -- and when I think of my role as a grant maker -- we are, more often than not,
contract makers these days than we are grant makers.
SARA ENGELHARDT: Actually, what I had to say fits very well in that context. It was actually
initially a response or a continuation of what Bill was talking about. When we went around the table and
introduced ourselves and in some of the discussion I heard regret on many people’s parts of the degree to
which grant making has become contract making in our society.
And I, of all people, feel that. I started work at a very young age in Carnegie, which considered itself a
general foundation and it went back to the early traditions of over the transom grants, defining some
areas of interest but not - certainly never getting to the point of describing the outcome expected and
putting a lot of faith in the institutions making the recommendation, or the proposal.
I guess I really do believe -- and some people may disagree with this from what I hear around the table --
that this is a social movement that has forced foundations into this situation, because in the end it is
private money, but because of the public ownership I think that people are looking - people look at
money available to the public good and because of the government - you described the government
money as contract money through government as needing to reflect the public will. It’s taxpayers’
Many people then look at the money that’s in private philanthropy as the taxpayers’ money in a way that
gives less and less discretion to the institutions giving that money, even if it’s just the family to do what
they want with it because of they don’t they risk losing that capability. And I think it’s a loss to the
society to the degree that we narrow that, because it had - I think it used to squarely sit between the gift
and the contract as a structured way of improving the public good. Structured. Not by whim, but also
not by contract.
And I believe we really are losing that and in so doing we are undermining the value of the foundation
sector for societies.
MONA YOUNIS: Can I ask a clarification question? Sara, are you saying that with a move towards
viewing the private foundation’s money as seeing that as public money, as tax money, that the move
towards that is somehow creating -
SARA ENGELHARDT: Creating more of a public right to say where that money should go, as they do
through representation of - in government for their tax money.
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: Can I just ask, Sara, and are you saying, too, that - as in the earlier exchange,
that the conception of it as public money enforces a higher fiduciary burden and a higher accountability
burden that propels us toward contract?
KAREN ROSA: A couple of things come to mind.
My concern with that, when you started out you were talking about concession of rights and privileges,
and that was part of the transaction. And I think if you look at, say, the rise of venture capitalism and
what happened in terms of new foundations being created and great amounts of money going into new
foundations created by people who had no business model, there was a certain holding onto those rights
In other words, by giving the money you then could sit on the board, you could control what the non-
profit was doing. And in some ways there’s been a devaluing of the kind of giving that was very much
the role of small family foundations or whatever. If you started a foundation you could just give your
money out in what we might in this context be talking about as gifts. Here’s an organization, they do
good work, here’s some money, I’m going to go away.
Now you have to say, okay, and for that money you must meet these outcomes and so forth, and it’s
changed the dynamics of grantmaking and you don’t see as much of that sort of bread and butter money
coming up for non-profits. I think that’s a concern.
MARY MCCORMICK: Sorry. May I?
AMY KASS: Please.
MARY MCCORMICK: Back to Jim’s point about these were concessions of rights and privileges and
you think about the continuation of that, and we are in a pluralistic democracy. And I think there was
this tacit understanding that we would set up this system because foundations and philanthropy would be
nimble and natural and it would be unlike government. And I think it’s under threat now because it’s
becoming more like government, and if it becomes more like government then in fact, let us vote on it,
let us have a way to speak.
And one of the things that’s happened in addition to Silicon Valley and the stuff that Karen mentioned, is
that in government in this country starting about the 1970s, the role of non-profit institutions changed
profoundly into direct service providers on behalf of government. That was done in large part because
of the rise of unionism in the public sector and you could deliver services more cheaply.
But the City of New York, out of its $50 billion budget, I think there’s 11 or 13 billion that really goes to
non-profits to deliver government services. And there’s no new service that is created because of not in-
my-backyard syndrome and the rest that is not delivered through a non-profit on that.
So that has changed that relationship and if I’m a non-profit getting 70% of my money from government,
and the 30 part I - 30% I need to stay alive and I need to be nimble, I need to innovate. And suddenly
that’s not available to me that way as general support. We’re easy to get to and I’ve got to go through
some process that is worse than government’s. And I’m going to pull back and say wait a minute. How
do we want this?
So I think there’s a lot at stake here in how we’re doing it that most people would want philanthropy as
they had it. But it’s not a given if it changes too profoundly in how we keep a balance of power.
NATALIE AMBROSE: Yeah, I was listening. I was going to bring up the issue of contracts, and
actually I think Mary may have given me an idea for at least one answer to this question. But I guess
when I was reading these essays before coming up, of course I was looking at gifts versus grants and
seeing contracts as an aspect of that. And then during the, you know, when you read between the lines
and then listening to the conversation, of course contracts are coming more to the fore.
And I was just curious with - maybe asking Sara or Joe, who talked a lot about this social movement,
this trend for - the grants are becoming more contracts. I’m just curious what created this. What - how
long has this been evolving? What was the impetus? Is it a social thing? Is it public accountability
requiring it or is it more the government looking at what’s happening to these public monies and the
SARA ENGELHARDT: I tried to address that a little in the paper I wrote. I think it’s a combination of
things. I see it now in the context of the public taking a very hard look at non-profits and foundations,
but that has been happening for a number of years. The last time that really happened was in 1969 and
the decade leading up to that - the law.
I think it also comes from some very valid desire on the part of foundations, particularly when there’s so
many of them and they want to have an impact, and the money relative to the size of the social issues
they’re trying to impact is relatively small. So they’re looking in part for self-survival reasons, to protect
their right to make grants, to show that they have impact. Because when the question comes round
again, so what have you done lately for the world, they need to have answers to that. But also they want
to have an impact.
I mean the way Chris has described what her foundation is trying to do, you know, looks to me like an
awful lot of leverage for less money than some, you know, a lot of the larger foundations might be able
to put into some of these things.
So I don’t think there’s blame to be placed here. I think there are a variety of social trends. But I’ll give
a very specific example. When Carnegie set up his foundation and endowed it with $135 million, the
endowment of his foundation was the same or it was very close to all of funding in higher education per
year. So that he could build not just institutions but fields, you know, things could happen.
And, you know, if you track over the last century what the trends in foundation growth and the kinds of
things they were doing, a lot of it has to do with government. But it’s not because of government. It’s a
reflection of other things that were going on in the society.
AMY KASS: Do you think that the foundations have been in part hoist by their own petard? In other
words, do you think that the abuses that have become manifest are the unintended consequences of their
own practices, or say, their desire to do good, for example, to have an impact?
SARA ENGELHARDT: Very little. Very little. I don’t think until recently, and maybe not even now,
most foundations don’t think of themselves as part of a field, and they don’t - when people are talking
about foundation abuses or whatever, that’s somebody else. That’s not me. That’s not what I’m doing.
And that’s why I think self-regulation for the field is so difficult or so impossible.
I think a lot of foundations think of themselves as part of the Cleveland community or the environmental
movement or whatever else their mission and passion is. So it’s - no, I think they’re other - these other
social forces are much more powerful. But of course from where I sit I see it as a threat to the field and
I’m very field oriented. So - not individual foundation oriented.
AMY KASS: You point now mainly to social forces but you also pointed, earlier, to the impulse to want
to make a difference. But, as we all know, the impulse to want to make a difference is very difficult to
measure or to know. And so the current insistence on accountability and the movement toward seeing
grants as contracts may really be part of the very good impulse that begins with the desire to make a
difference, to have a real impact.
SARA ENGELHARDT: Yes, or it -
AMY KASS: Okay, Gene.
EUGENE R. WILSON: But it’s not appealing to new donors because the obligation to due diligence
and the sacrifice to agility just isn’t going to be acceptable.
I was stunned when I got to the Kaufmann Foundation, which prides itself on being entrepreneurial, that
there was an actual disdain for the philanthropic industry. The founders wanted nothing to do with the
Ford Foundations, et cetera. They wanted to make a difference, and they wanted to do it quickly, and
they wanted to do it on their own terms.
The founder of Hudson Institute was a wonderful futurist by the name of Herman Kahn, and he used the
term educated incapacity. And I think in the field there’s been a terrible occupational trap of educated
incapacity and the new donors now coming along - probably some will continue to create foundations,
but according to Katherine Fulton and her forecast of how philanthropy is changing in the Monitor
Group study, is that foundations are going to be just an option.
And more wealth will go, in many, many, many other ways to try and to make a difference than through
a foundation. It may go to my congregation. It may go to whatever I want to do right now. I suspect
there will be a lot of rookie mistakes, and in the process of those rookie mistakes they’ll be learning. But
I don’t think in - as we go forward with your work at Boston College and see the 11 trillion that’ll come
to non-profits, a majority of that will create new foundations.
So I think we do need to stop talking just about foundations and need to think about how we accomplish
social good with wealth in order to satisfy my impulse to do good and to do it quickly and to make a
SHARON KING: [tape change] . . . I think it’s not only foundations that may less importance, but I also
think it’s grants that may have less importance, as donors figure out different ways to use their money to
leverage change. And so I think that’s on the horizon as emerging issue.
AMY KASS: Could I just stop you for one second, would you please name some of those other ways
that donors use or are going to use besides making grants or gifts. -
SHARON KING: Okay. Well, I can take our example at the Heron Foundation with $270 million in the
endowment. Including our grants we have over 25% of that endowment currently at work for the
mission and we’re game to go as high as we can, making prudent investments.
And so it includes grants, it includes program related investments, it includes insured deposits in
community development credit unions and community development banks. The asset class would be
considered the cash position of the foundation. It includes market rate investments in private equity that
are related to our mission. It includes market rate investments in bonds that are related to our mission.
And we’re struggling with public equity. So we’ve going to look at the entire asset class for an
endowment and look at various ways that we can use those tools to advance the mission of the
And it’s not just that it’s our idea. If you talk to your grantees you will find out that they’re dealing with
a variety of these things among the asset classes as well. They go to banks. They need capital. Not just
grants. They need real investment capital to do their work. So that’s what we’re trying to do.
But my point on this was general support and to put another word in for that Bill has raised. And I think
there are ways to measure general support. I think it’s not a black hole, as people would have you
believe. And part of it is just buying into the organization that you support, buying into their goals. And
so then their report back is simply how to do, you know, are you on point? What happened? Did you
move along? And those are real goals that organizations have, but it’s their goals and it really supports
the organization as well as moving the foundations mission forward.
So I don’t think it’s a black hole at all when you do general support.
EUGENE R. WILSON: Subtle difference. I think the field has been affected by social science jargon. I
do not think donors necessarily accept social science jargon. Foundations frequently require a needs
assessment as they decide what they’re going to do.
People of wealth look at opportunities. Now maybe the needs are coupled to the opportunities but the
subtle difference of where can I make a difference has really nothing to do with needs. It has more to do
with opportunity. And in most of the wealth in small family foundations that has happened because
individuals have seen opportunities and have created wealth, and now they want to use the same thing in
their giving, or in their philanthropy.
AMY KASS: Let me ask you something. Is that the reason that you think it’s a matter of indifference
whether we call a grant a contract or a covenant or an investment? Do you think that fundamentally
people are looking for opportunities?
EUGENE R. WILSON: I don’t think a new donor who hasn’t been exposed to all the background that
most of us around this table have will distinguish between those things. They want to know how they
can use their assets to give back in a meaningful way. I don’t think they give a darn how you call it.
AMY KASS: And you don’t think that they will be afflicted by the very thing that Sara was pointing to,
namely, that wanting to give in a meaningful way one will eventually lead to wanting to see what those
measurable results are.
EUGENE R. WILSON: Well, it did in Mr. Lilly’s case, and I think that evolution likely will happen in
other people of wealth. But most of the newcomers to the field are risk takers, and they bet on people,
and they’re going to look for people who can make a difference that they can trust and that’s where
they’re going to put their chips.
AMY KASS: Sara, you look as if you’re dying to say something.
SARA ENGELHARDT: I’m just thinking of my historical perspective on the last hundred years, which
is, you know, it started out with scientific philanthropy. Yes, is that social science or what? And in each
generation there has been some disillusionment with the way it was done before. And there are reasons.
I mean, again, there are social forces that are pushing in these directions.
I guess I would remind us all that the 90s were an aberration in terms of the amount of money going into
foundations, but it moved the needle only slightly relative to the proportion of non-profit budgets that
were being paid for by foundations as opposed to by other means.
I think we’re exaggerating our own importance if we see this either as an endpoint and a sort of a
cataclysmic moment, or as anything more than another phase. And there will be other phases. And I
think some of them will be wonderful. Maybe part of it’s my age that I regret the degree to which where
we are now rather than where we were when I was younger and more hopeful.
But I think that’s what we are seeing that the people who are setting up the funding mechanisms have.
They have the incredible enthusiasm for making change and some of them will find - the generation after
then will look back and say these poor souls. You know, they thought they were going to change the
world and, look, the world’s not much better. It happens - it happened all the time I guess.
JOSEPH DOLAN: Well, see, this is why in my paper, I go back to the original purpose of foundations
was to fund those special niches, novel programs, new strategies, new ways of doing business. And I
think the foundations today are doing everything for everybody. They’re trying to be like everyone else.
They’re trying to be like government. They’re trying to do everything. And I think we ought to go back
to foundation row, the foundation niche, considering all the money out there and the only money we
have in our field, that money should be used for that purpose - special niches, novel programs, new
research, new ways of doing business.
And that’s what we -
SARA ENGELHARDT: You and I agree, but the world doesn’t. The world’s not going to go there. It’s
going to go exactly where it wants to go.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: I liked your paper, but I kind of disagree entirely [laughter] - with several of
the points that you made. You said that you had never seen any good come of a personal relation
between the grant maker and the grantor. And I never give money except to people I’m friends with.
So, yeah, another point is that, you know, the innovation, the most - you know, that the greatest good I
see of the what little I can do is not to change the world but to support people in the flourishing that’s
possible to human beings under the very, you know, screwed up circumstances of most of life.
And so I see the idea of being innovative and change this, change that, as implying kind of pride about
JOSEPH DOLAN: I think that, for example, in my paper I never even mentioned private family
foundations because a lot of family foundations are small, they give to local programs, they give
probably to programs that the children like, that they have some special relationship to, and if that’s what
they want to do, fine with me.
And they’ll have a cordial relationship with those grantees or organizations, and - but I still say for
effectiveness you still have to have some arm’s length between you and the recipient. And you can get
to know them. Let me give you an example. My predecessor used to take our grantees out to lunch, go
to their homes, see the family photos and everything. My view was always an arm’s length to keep
distance, objectivity, and so forth. We just have a totally different style.
And so I think you have to be careful here. Relationships can be cordial and friendly, but they must be
professional and somewhat arm’s length. I really believe that.
AMY KASS: So they have basically to be contracts?
JOSEPH DOLAN: Not necessarily. I gave some exceptions in my paper. For example, in large
foundations, as we know, you have special staff on large foundations that have a very narrow field of
interest. They do a very specific thing. And that’s their specialty.
And with these special specialists on these larger foundations they know the field well. They may have
come for the field. They may know all the research in the field. They may know especially the
emerging research in that field. So I can see the cross-fertilization between those special staff people on
the larger foundations and working with grant recipients they could have a special relationship.
But I think this - in our field, it’s so diverse. It has so many different variables to achieve your ends even
today that I like to see it stay that way and have this tremendous healthy diversity that we have now,
which is apparently even expanding beyond the non-profit field itself. I think that’s healthy and I think
that’s wonderful and I hope that even happens more.
AMY KASS: Okay, before we get even more into the question of relationships, which we are going to
move to head on in a moment, let me just put this question to you. Does the nature of that relationship
change if you regard your grant as a contract or as a gift?
JOSEPH DOLAN: I look at it actually in a different way. I look at the fact that intermediaries today
have changed. Much of the research in our field is with the donors, the foundations, or the program
areas in specific fields of social science research or whatever. I think the intermediaries, the non-profit
organizations, have changed dramatically in the last 30 or 40 years, and that we have not focused enough
on how these non-profits themselves have changed.
In New York City, for example, our non-profits, many of them - many of them are 5 to 12 to $15 million
budgets with very large staffs. A lot of our traditional grantees have endowments greater than one of our
foundations, so we don’t fund them anymore.
There’s been a profound change with the nature of non-profits and the intermediaries and they deserve
greater attention I think.
MONA YOUNIS: I think Joseph did a brilliant job of explaining what I was trying to say, or just of
putting forth exactly what I was trying to say, which is that depending on your view, your world view,
your experience, you’re going to relate to the process of grant making and the grants themselves
differently than not.
Your experience is that grant seekers are gargantuan, so bloated they’re even larger than foundations, so
your perspective on the grants and the grant making process is going to be very different if your
community or the world that you’re working in is the struggling grassroots type schools that are barely
able to live on shoestring budgets, they’re all volunteers, et cetera. That’s what -
JOSEPH DOLAN: Well, wait -
MONA YOUNIS: The other thing is -
JOSEPH DOLAN: Wait a minute. That’s why in my paper I made a distinction carefully between grant
in large urban areas and rural or suburban grant making, which is much smaller.
MONA YOUNIS: Right, but at the same time you’re suggesting that foundations really need to focus
only on making grants that are unusually innovative - I forgot exactly how you put it. Well, that’s
possible if your community of grant seekers is the large - are large $50 million organizations and a lot of
federal, state, county, and city funding is going to that sector, and you find that there are lots - there are
members of that community who are not really needy and they’re getting funded. I mean they’re
claiming they’re needy but they’re not needy.
So I can understand that that would be your focus, and that political advocacy should not be considered
charitable. I can understand that you would have that perspective if that’s the community you’re
working with - in. But other foundations are not working in those kinds of - or have that benefit. And
things like political advocacy - funding for that is imperative if we’re going to move those issues
If - and another thing -- and this is more general -- foundations - put them all together and have them
agree on a - let’s assume all 80,000 - I believe there are 80,000 of then now? Something? Let’s assume
all of them attend a meeting and decide, yes, here are the priorities. This is how we’re going to fund.
We’re still not going to solve the problems. The government has obligations towards health, education,
welfare, et cetera, that only the government can address and resolve. The needs are so enormous that
only governments can do that.
So political advocacy is vital there. So what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard. You can’t - we - none of
us can say that there’s one way and - or one area or one approach or one thing that will –work.
AMY KASS: On that note let’s take a break and you two can settle your differences in the hall.
[Laughter]. Five to ten minute break.
[break in audio]
AMY KASS: Let me look back for a moment, if I may, before moving directly into the matter of the
relationship between grantors and grantees. Okay, I don’t think that we gained a lot of clarity on what a
grant actually is, nor have we reached anything like a consensus. But I do think that what emerged might
be summarized this way: a number of people see a trend in philanthropy away from grant-making and
more toward contract-making, and with some regret. They readily recognize that something has been
So the differences for these folks between the grant and the contract, as well as between both and the gift
are quite apparent. But others maintained, just as vigorously, diversity in grant making is crucial and that
fundamentally it really doesn’t matter what you call whatever it is you’re doing. The important thing is
to do whatever you are doing in as many ways as possible. I suspect that language – what we call what
we are doing – does, in the end, make, and will continue to make, a difference, however subtle, and that
our names for our practices should be given more attention.
But let’s move now to our other question. It’s rather sobering to be reminded that the challenge for
philanthropy is not new, as Gene Wilson points out at the end of his paper. Quoting from Aristotle’s
Ethics, which was written more than 2,000 years ago, he writes, “To give away money is an easy matter
and in any man’s power, but to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose
and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter. Hence it is that such excellence is rare,
praiseworthy, and noble.”
But as people engaged in the world as public servants, and if philanthropy really is, as commonly
claimed, voluntary action for the public good, we should all regard ourselves as public servants, such
sobering words may also be very frustrating. This is especially so if we take to heart Sara’s observation
about how vital philanthropy is, and foundations in particular are, for the health and future of civil
society. In other words, it behooves us, however difficult, to try to do it well. And moreover, if we take
Sara’s suggestion at the very end of her paper seriously, that may well mean, first and foremost,
developing good partnerships. As she says, and I quote, “If foundations are to continue to play their
unique role, we must remember that their value to society lies in their partnership with grantees, however
imperfect, not in the value of their endowments.” You might want to question Sara’s assumption, but
let’s accept it for a moment.
And, with it in mind, let’s turn to the question about partnerships. What sort of relationship does the
making of a grant imply, create, or allow between grantors and grantees? I provide, again, a very brief
summary of the field that was provided for us, this time with some questions.
Gene Wilson states, as an almost self-evident proposition, that grantors plus grantees, and only grantors
plus grantees equals philanthropy, that is, willy-nilly philanthropy is in the relationship business.
But drawing on an historic example to make his point, namely Eli Lilly’s impressive career, he manages
also to show why such relationships, especially with philanthropists or foundations whose resources
encourage them to aim at social change, may be inherently very vexed. Effective social change requires
knowledge and know-how, expertise in short, which expertise often widens the gulf, he notes, between
philanthropists and their agents - non-profits.
Sara Engelhardt tells us flat out that the golden rule in philanthropy is this: “He who has the gold makes
the rules, i.e., grantees never called the shots.” But if this is true then regardless of how grantees are
selected, something Sara points to as being central for grantor-grantee relations, can there ever be
anything like real relationships or partnerships between grantors and grantees? If so, on what kind of
understanding of relationship?
Joe Dolan suggests – and we have already heard a preview of this -- that an arm’s length relationship
with one’s grantees is always best, that is, a professional relationship. But at least two of the three things
he cites as valued by grantees, citing the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s 2004 report, should make us
wonder, again, whether relationships, professional or otherwise, are really possible or even desirable.
If a foundation very clearly and consistently articulates its objectives -- something all three of our writers
seem to applaud -- don’t they run the same risks that the venture philanthropists run, as Sara points out,
namely, of being rather overbearing, over-directive, and hence causing their so-called partners to twist
themselves out of shape? And similarly, if the expertise of the foundation is embraced for the reasons
Gene points to, doesn’t this, too, distort relationships?
So what sort of relationship does the making of a grant imply, create, or allow between grantors and
grantees? Can we call what they have between them a partnership? Please, Niamani.
NIAMANI MUTIMA: This question came up during a conversation that a group of funders who fund in
Africa were having about ethics in international grant making. And it was very interesting because this
very question was put on the table in terms of, you know, our grantee partners, which is now the word
And I’ve talked to a lot of NGOs in Africa who say, wow, Niamani, it’s really interesting. I’m now a
partner. You know? You know, what does this mean? And this is, you know, I don’t understand. What
does this mean? And I say, aw, it’s just another buzzword.
But in terms of the relationship, you know, there is a lot of discussion about this whole issue of
relationship. And one of the things that I think a lot about is the role culture plays in the context of
relationships and people and, you know, kind of what people’s values are and what they believe and so
on and so forth, and how that really plays into how we have a relationship with them. And I’m always
struck, in terms of this discussion about grantors and grantees, b by the essence of that.
Now, some of that probably is because the focus that I work with our foundations that fund in Africa.
So, you know, domestic funders it may be a different conversation. I don’t know. But you just have to
put a caveat on that. But in terms of talking about ethics, for example, people are saying that the kind of
relationship that you have with your grantees is that you want to be open, you know, you want to be
sensitive, you want to listen, you know, you want to listen to many voices, and so on and so forth. And
so all of these things sort of came out.
And, you know, I said, well, but at the end of the day, even though you’ve done all these touchy feely
things and whatnot, does it really, you know, fundamentally change the ability of the grantee to do
something or get something that you don’t want them to do or get? And if the answer to that is no, then,
you know, what’s the point of this exercise to go through, you know, to talk about this relationship?
And there’s a lot of discussion among, you know, Africa funders about this because, you know, very
often they’re dealing in countries that are, you know, unfamiliar to them, communities that are
unfamiliar to them, cultures that are unfamiliar to them. But none of that ever stops them from feeling
like they know what needs to happen to make, you know, whatever needs to be fixed. You know,
whatever’s broken needs to be fixed or whatever.
So I think that, you know, when you talk about this relationship - this question of relationship between
grantors and grantees, I think that, at the risk of, you know, just being too candid, that a lot of times
when I hear this it’s almost as if funders want to feel good and they want to feel, you know, they want to
- so like Mona says, you know, I’m the self-hating funder or whatever that - you know, it’s like very
often funders want to come away feeling that they’re not the bad guy or girl or whatever, and that the
grantee, at the end of the day, still likes them. And somehow, you know, it’s important to feel, you
And so in terms of this relationship, you know, I think also, too, that in the discussions that I’ve been in
where there’ve been grantees in the room, I always hear funders say, well, but you can’t really have an
honest conversation if the grantee is in the room. You know? Because it’s just - there’s just not going to
be honest conversation. And if grantees are having a conversation they always say, well, but you can’t
really talk candidly if there are funders in the room because they’re going to remember what you say,
even though they say that they aren’t.
So I think - I guess in essence what I’m trying to say is this whole question about relationships, you
know, with grantees or whatnot, I’m never quite sure why there’s always a need to try to make it
something other than what it is.
AMY KASS: Which is not much.
NIAMANI MUTIMA: Well, no. I think it’s a lot, but what I’m saying is that - and I should have - the
point of the paper about contracts. I don’t see anything wrong, from my point of view, with a contract
because that’s just expectations. And I hear a lot of NGOs say that, you know, they prefer contractual
agreements with grantors because it kind of spells out and puts on the table what the expectation is, as
opposed to it being kind of fuzzy and, you know, implicit but not explicit so that when they screw up,
you know, that they know they’ve screwed up and they know that the funder’s not pleased, but that since
nothing’s really explicit that, you know, they can’t sort of fix it.
AMY KASS: But is it your experience that when you spell out, very clearly and explicitly, what your
requirements and guidelines are and what kind of results you want, that the NGOs will do anything they
can to get the money, forgetting, in the process, who they might really be and what they really stand for?
NIAMANI MUTIMA: Well, you know, we’ve had a very long discussion around this question as well.
And I mean I think that somehow there’s a nobility - I mean somehow implicit in asking that question is
a value judgment that an organization that needs money to survive, that has staff that it needs to pay, that
it needs people that it’s supporting in the context of that community, may make some choices that you
don’t necessarily agree with.
That’s one. And two, you know, I mean just like sometimes people don’t do with money what, you
know, they’re supposed to do. Organizations don’t do with money what they’re supposed to do. But
sometimes there’s a whole lot behind that. So, I mean I’m a grant seeker. Will I say anything I have to
say in order to get a grant? Well, let’s put it this way. If -
[Laughter and crosstalk]
NIAMANI MUTIMA: No, no, no. No, now let’s put it this way. Let’s put it this way. If I can interpret
where I’m going in a way that makes sense to the funder who wants to give me funds to help me get
there, then I will do that. Okay? So.
KRISTA SHAFFER: If I could share the experience of the grantee in a short story. I received a grant to
be an exchange student when I was a little younger. I was going to say much younger, but not that much
younger I guess.
And it was a government grant, which is different than receiving a grant from a foundation I - well,
maybe not based on what some people have been saying. But I spent my year abroad, wasn’t quite sure
what I was supposed to be doing, but they said go, attend school, live with the family, and that should
serve some broader aims of which I had a one-paragraph summary when I went over there. Not much
When I got over there my German host father, first thing he said to me when I got off the plane was I
want to thank you for the Marshall Plan. And I didn’t know what that was, but I said, well, you’re
welcome. Okay. And so there was a - that was the meeting of two cultures and it went on for a year and
it was a wonderful experience.
And now just, I think, last year, maybe two years ago, it was the 20th anniversary of this government
program and they were assembling people’s stories -- people who went abroad -- and that was the first
time anyone had asked me, from the agency that had given the grant, what I did with it. And I had this
And they took me in for an interview. They interviewed me for an hour, it went on to an hour and a half,
two hours on camera about my experience and how wonderful it was. I sent pictures, all kinds of things.
I mean amazing things happened because when I was in Germany I wrote letters back to - back home.
And I was from a very small town. These letters got published in the newspaper of my small town
because it was easier than sending word out to all my relatives.
And these papers circulated to people who had grown up in my small town who lived all over the
country, and soon I was getting letters from people in California -- and I’m from Pennsylvania -- from all
over saying, you know, giving me their impressions. And I have all those letters and I sent many of
them into the State Department, thinking they might use them as an example of how effective this
exchange program was.
Well, what they boiled the experience down to was one observation that they used in their video, and
that was an observation I had made about the geography of Germany. And that was it. And they sent
me my materials back and said thank you very much. I’m left with this wonderful - you know, there
were many World War II veterans, especially in my hometown and around the area who were so moved
by my letters and by a young person going out there and experiencing a foreign culture and people who -
you know, they identified with so much of the stories I wrote back about Germany and what it was like.
And they would come up to me -- and they still do - this is 12, 13 years after I spent time there -- with
tears in their eyes saying I remember that story you told about when you, you know, fill in the blank.
And it’s really the gift that keeps on giving for me. But the grantor that gave me that gift will - is not - I
don’t know. There’s no - and so I’m left with what happened?
SARA ENGELHARDT: I would suggest that a great deal happened and that it was not in the way the
agency used the information you gave them, but did you fulfill their expectations for how this would
change not just you, but your world? Your entire town. The family and friends who were no longer
And in fact in some ways I think that’s a wonderful story showing how faith, in an approach to making
grants, that you will get the outcomes. They won’t necessarily be measurable or the ones you would
expect, or things that you can put in your file, but there they are and how fabulous a set of outcomes.
EUGENE R. WILSON: But we’ve read an awful lot about how foundations expect of their grantees
these reports on the use of funds, which die in the foundation files and are never mined for anything that
had been learned. And it sounds to me like the State Department is like most foundations, in terms of
how they have expectations of the grantees and then what happens to them.
SARA ENGELHARDT: But does the funder have to learn something from all this or can some of it be
what happens in the use of the funds in and of themselves? I think that may actually be one of the things
that’s driving the pressure toward contracts, that the grant maker wants to have something in his file or
feels it must, or feels it has to publish something saying this is what we learned, or this is what the world
learned. Whereas in fact sometimes - it depends on what you’re trying to do, of course, but sometimes
couldn’t it be that you made the world a better place without actually knowing the parameters of that?
EUGENE R. WILSON: But you take it to public benefit, and should the learning die, because if you’re
going to benefit from your experience -
SARA ENGELHARDT: - [inaudible].
EUGENE R. WILSON: - you know, you said sometimes the non-profit screws up. An entrepreneur
expects to make mistakes and they keep their knees bent and change as they learn. That may be one of
the greatest public benefits that foundations can generate, but they don’t.
NIAMANI MUTIMA: And frankly I think when you say should funders - do funders have to learn
anything? I think from an institutional point of view it’s important that they do. And the reason why I
feel that way is because - and make a distinction between as an individual, is that that institution, by
making grants and putting their money in a certain way, certain fields, you know, using a certain tool or
whatever, is really wielding a great deal of influence, and that other foundations, for whatever reasons,
very often take a cue from.
And I think that in the field that one of the things that is regrettable is that there’s not more
documentation and access to that documentation about what people have learned, you know, both
positively and negatively.
SARA ENGELHARDT: If I could keep on this topic for a second, I absolutely agree with you. I mean I
don’t mean to say that - in fact I feel very strongly that continuity within grant making organizations in
terms of being able to build on experience. I don’t think any fool can make a grant. I definitely don’t
think that. I think it’s something that you get better at and that institutions that try certain strategies can
get better and better at those strategies.
But I’m not sure that that’s always reflected in the requirements for individual grants. I think it may be
more an accumulated knowledge within and among the people working together in a foundation. I do
understand the impetus for wanting this sort of knowledge base for the field, where everybody knows
what everybody else has learned, and I myself am sort of inclined toward keeping records of everything
and being sure everyone knows what’s going on. You can do that, which takes all of your resources and
your time, or you can try to move forward. And some balance I think is required.
I do believe there is excess in the field now of trying to get every grant evaluated and proven and, you
know, whatever, and I do think that a lot of those reports -- because they don’t tell you anything, you
don’t learn anything from them -- go into the file. And that’s where they belong. They aren’t helpful.
JOSEPH DOLAN: Just -
AMY KASS: Go ahead.
JOSEPH DOLAN: You know, a little caution here and reality, like the reality TV shows, I guess. You
know, people send in their final reports on grant projects and of course they want another grant down the
road. So it’s very rare in my book and over the years that you get reports that say, gosh, we did a
horrible job. Everything went wrong, you know, we don’t know why, and da, da, da, da, da. It’s so rare.
Actually, the ones that do come in and say that, which is like one in every five years maybe, we’d take
notice. Wow, look at this. They learned this, they said this, they were honest, it didn’t work out, here’s
what they’re going to do next time to correct the situation. We love those reports. We get very few of
JOYCE INFANTE: I just wanted to make a comment. I agree with Sara. Sometimes perhaps the
reports submitted by the grant seekers belong in the file cabinets and there may not be learning,
especially learning that might be applied field wide.
But I couldn’t -- and this is maybe a different way of looking at it -- I can’t help but think despite the fact
that many grant seekers -- and we know this from grant seekers coming to our library -- complain about
the extent to which they have to do reporting. But I wonder if that might also be viewed as a potential
benefit and discipline for the grant seeker to evaluate their own activities and programs, especially for
those that may not do formal evaluations.
So that might be another benefit of reporting, even though we want - we don’t want it - no - on either
side of the equation to carry to excess, but I think it is perhaps - should be considered a very important
discipline for the grant seeker to look at what they’ve done. It might be the only time when they can
really step back from their activities and say here’s what we’ve done. How do we think this applies to
our own goals and mission?
AMY KASS: That’s very idealistic. Very idealistic. I mean as a grant seeker and grant recipient over
the years, who had to write many of these reports, knowing ahead of time that they were going to go into
a file and probably never be looked at, I didn’t learn very much from doing it. So you’re saying that this
is an exercise in really getting to know something about yourself, I’m just not quite sure.
But go ahead.
KAREN ROSA: I’m - I want to - there are a couple of things here I wanted to point to. When we talk
about these contracts and how non-profits are twisting themselves to do what the foundation wants, you
would hope that what you set out as expectations are mutually agreed upon expectations, and I think that
this is speaking to the quality of a good program officer. Someone who does build a relationship based
on truest with a grantee, has a really clear sense of what that grantee hopes to accomplish, and how that
fits with what you were trying to accomplish so that there is this mutual relationship and, you know, it is
a two-way street.
I loved Sara’s paper but there was one line in it that I mentioned to you kind of bothered me. She said,
“in contrast, the worth of a grant is never in the transaction but in how the grant is used.” And I was
curious how you were defining transaction, because I think an awful lot goes on in that process of
developing grants that can be around - whether it’s around technical assistance, sharing of knowledge,
linking of people to other partners, and I was just sort of curious how you were thinking -
SARA ENGELHARDT: I meant it much more narrowly. I meant in the giving. Because I was
contrasting it with gift - a gift relationship where often the act of giving, you know, when your three-
year-old gives you a Mother’s Day present that is handmade, it’s not the value of the gift, it’s the act of
giving - the heart and the love that’s in that that’s important.
And I guess I think that it’s not the fact of the grant, but I agree with you absolutely. The relationship
around that is in fact -
SARA ENGELHARDT: Yeah, I think of that more as the relationship as opposed to the transaction. So
that’s a technical issue.
AMY KASS: Okay, Tim.
TIMOTHY WALTER: Thanks. I mean one of the things I remember from a very early conversation
similar to this about a year ago was we started out the day going around having people describe what
was a really good gift they had received and one that they had really been very successful in delivering.
And I think there’s some components of that that are very similar to a good grant, because a good grant
still could be given with the other’s needs in mind, and a good gift usually - and this was - you know, not
to ruin it for the group, but, I mean one of the things that people I think, you know, seem to come to
some agreement on is, you know, when you really scored, you know, you gave Keith a CD he’s been
waiting to get and he couldn’t find and he just, you know, he’s loving the CD that he got. And you just
know when you’ve really don’t it and you had the other person’s best interest in mind.
And, you know, if you’re working on giving money to a non-profit or to a public charity and being able
to get to that sense of not what does that charity need, but what do their beneficiaries need?
Okay, so I’m - you know, I’m going to say this and then I’m actually going to leave. I’m sorry. I’ve got
SARA ENGELHARDT: [Inaudible] -
TIMOTHY WALTER: I’ve got to be back to D.C. -
SARA ENGELHARDT: - [inaudible].
TIMOTHY WALTER: No, I’ve got an obligation this evening and - but it’s work related. The - and it
pains me to leave because this is so fun.
I really feel that the conversation - I - this really sounds - and after reading the four papers, I read a lot of
them and I went, my, how sterile this all feels and to work in a larger foundation it just felt sterile. And I
felt really glad to be working for the Association of Small Foundations, having read this.
And one of the things that I know that I’ve missed as a grantee is some connection with the donors. Like
Mr. Kellogg. Okay, so we’ve gotten money from them. This guy was probably pretty interesting, but
he’s never been brought into or what he was trying to create with the foundation, it’s never been brought
into what the grant was or what the gift is. It’s always a relationship with the program officer and it gets
The giftedness of what created that foundation in its early history is completely gone from any grant that
I have ever gotten or pursued or contracted. I’ve done a lot of contracts with Kellogg in my career.
Totally gone. It is like working with the government. Except - well, anyway. Let’s just say it is
somewhat like working with the government.
And so one of the things that I just raise as a possibility is one of the good reasons to have a donor intent
statement, for those of you who are working for foundations whose donor is dead, is that you might
actually in your - you know, in a grant award letter mention what the donor meant or was thinking when
he or she set up the foundation. And it might just interject a little bit of something slightly different and
more elevated, or different within the grantor/grantee relationship that has a touch of giftedness in it.
EUGENE R. WILSON: That’s a strong argument because in institutional grant making it’s amazing
how, over time, as trustees change, they reinterpret donor intent to suit their current needs.
TIMOTHY WALTER: Carnegie, you know. Hey, whatever the hell you want to do with it, great.
Well, okay, good. We can have a good conversation about why what we’re doing that elevates the
grantee and faith in the grantee. But bring the donor into it.
IRENE CROWE: I’d like to go back to what you were saying earlier about the notion of partnership. I
had always found myself perplexed in some ways because it’s not quite clear to me what it means.
I know part of what it means is what people have been saying here, namely, a respect for each person
that is part of the negotiation, and an attempt to listen to the needs. And pretty much what’s been laid
out here. But it seems to me that if one’s really going to take that term seriously, it has to have built into
it the recognition that there is a fundamental power difference.
And we tend to kind of wheedle around on that one, in an effort to - well, I thought you put it very well,
Niamani. There’s an element of wanting to be liked and of trying to get out from under this imbalance.
It seems to me unless one looks at this imbalance and then uses the different cultures giving and being
given to, to interpret that, we’re somewhat up the creek. And being the object of giving raises questions
that probably have quite different answers, with different kinds of grants or in different countries. Or
indeed at different times. So that it’s perhaps useful to look at these prior relationships in this series of
AMY KASS: Let me put that even more strongly. Philanthropy, going back to its root sense, is a way
of acknowledging and solidifying one’s relations with humanity. It is a way of acknowledging human
But still, in the very act of giving you can exacerbate the differences between the haves and the have-
nots, and hence, further fracture human solidarity. The intention is to bring people together, but in the
very act of doing philanthropy you might draw people apart even more. Is there any way of overcoming
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: As you well know, one of the oldest questions there is is about trying to
understand the gift relationship. And I think the conversation we’ve begun to have about the relationship
between grantor and grantee is really one that summons us back to considering the nature of the gift
relationship and whether we are writing contracts or making what we call grants or doing all of the many
things that a foundation and institutionalized philanthropy can do.
We are still part of a set of transactions - philanthropic transactions that partake of the gift relationship.
And I think we know a lot about the ways that we can expand human solidarity, create social ties.
Keith and I were talking about Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. We were talking about Seneca’s treatise
On Benefits. We were covering the ancient history of philanthropy. And I just turned to one of the
things - I’m reminded of how much Seneca’s writing is about gratitude and how there is something of
grace in the philanthropic and the gift transaction. And he has this wonderful image of the three graces -
the goddesses of beauty and charity, and how the gift relationship is really about the intertwined hands of
those three sisters as they danced - one hand for giving, one hand for receiving, one hand for
And as you read most of the classical text –(and I’m doing this softly. Keith can do it with more rigor as
a fully trained classicist. I just did medieval things. It was all debased by the time I got to these texts)
the question is one of gratitude and reducing the degree of ingratitude that results from the power
imbalances in the relationship. So I think if we really want to focus on the relationship, it’s how we
expand the network of ties. How we think seriously about concepts we don’t really use. Gratitude and
ingratitude and the gracefulness of the transaction.
AMY KASS: All right. Thank you. Let’s hold that for a second. Dick, you were trying to get an oar in a
while back. Has the conversation moved too far from the point you wanted to make?
ROBERT CAVANAGH: I don’t [inaudible].
AMY KASS: Okay. Okay. Mona.
MONA YOUNIS: Goodness. –Well, it sounds to me like we’re adding a whole new layer of
responsibility on grant seekers if they also - there has to be an element of gratitude involved and in that.
And the other way around. How can we count on foundations to get to that mental, emotional place?
And what would compel them there?
I see it very differently. I see it as pure self-interest. You want to do good grants, it behooves you to be
in touch with the people actually doing the work and listen to them because they’re the ones who know
what’s going on, what’s needed, et cetera. As long as they’re a good organization that’s well rooted in
the communities in which they work. It’s not just anybody working.
Their claim to be connected to the communities within which they work, their claim to be
organizationally sound, et cetera, et cetera, is all you have the right as a funder to evaluate. And then
when you enter a relationship with them, trusting them, hearing them, listening to them. And not - and I
agree with Niamani. It’s not a matter of what’s - a partnership is what we’re about and then you go off
and the funder goes off. That doesn’t work.
It’s not a matter of whether it’s a good thing, a nice thing, or not a nice thing or a poor thing to do, it just
doesn’t work. Even the World Bank is being dragged kicking and screaming to a more participatory
model. People who are affected by the decisions that are going to be made should participate in
developing the plans, et cetera.
So from a self-interest point of view I think that we can get to that place of gratitude, but I don’t think we
can count on starting there.
That’s one thing. The other piece I wanted to address is that in the reporting, grant reports that groups,
that organizations submit, I wonder often why there isn’t a component of evaluate the process that you
had with the foundation or with the program officer. Include, you know, well, it’s sort of obvious why
they don’t because they’re going to be afraid, right? But there’s a -
FEMALE VOICE: Yes, it might affect the next grant.
MONA YOUNIS: But we certainly now have the technology and the means to be able to get those kinds
of submissions anonymously - receive them anonymously. And I think foundations need to do that.
They need to hear directly from grantees without knowing who they are. We can figure that out. We
need to know how the actual process was for them and how the program officer behaved. But I hope it
happens after I leave philanthropy.[laughter]
SHARON KING: It’s always great to be in a session with Jim. I just decided that Debbie and I will be
at least two of the goddesses.
JAMES ALLEN SMITH: I’ll sit next to them.
SHARON KING: Well, you can be three -
SHARON KING: I’ve had the experience and privilege of sitting in a number of sessions with grantees,
grantors and talking about this relationship, and the conversations just drive me wild. I mean it’s just too
much about I don’t know what. And I agree with the comments of not trying to twist what this
relationship is into something it’s not just by our language when we know that it’s something very
So two things. One, the best comment I heard from a grantee at one of these things was just the common
issue of respect and that the relationship and the communication and the contact would be respectful
from both sides. Not just one, from both sides. And so that’s, you know, what should try guide us.
And then, as a manager of a program, for me a question was how do you operationalize this? I mean
program officers have a great deal of anonymity. I mean they’re the ones that directly deal with the
grantee. You know, we can sit in staff meeting and everyone agrees we should treat people well and do
unto others and that sort of thing, but how do I know as a manager and head of this foundation that that
in fact is actually happening? I mean because they represent the foundation there.
So we’ve done a number of things. And I don’t know if it works but I mean maybe others have tried
other things as well. We just tried to change our internal language, and talk about folks as customers and
think what that means. Now we know it’s not a customer relationship in the traditional way, but there
are relationships and ways you treat people that come out of a customer relationship.
And we measure things and we use them in program officer evaluation. And so one of the things was
response time that you can measure. How quickly you turn around a request that comes in for a no, or
it’s being considered or whatever. We check that data. That data is used in a program officer’s
We went through the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and we took it down to the program officer
level. That feedback was given back to them and some of it was hard. Of course we were all fabulous
overall. But there were differences in our fabulousness. Somebody is always on the bottom.
So we’ve used that. And we continue to look for ways that we can get feedback. But I think you have to
operationalize and I think, at least for us, there was too much talk about it in general. You need to look
at how does it play out, how can you get feedback? I try to meet with grantees, with program officers
out in the community to look for relationship issues as well.
So I think it’s critical, but I think we don’t yet have a good way to look at what we’re, you know, sort of
doing what we say we want to do in terms of value in these relationships.
KAREN ROSA: Just as another practical note, when we were talking about reports and reports going
into files, this is just something I’d love to throw out because I think it would be great for increasing and
diversifying the field. We hired this year our first intern at the foundation, and the way we started that
intern off was having her read reports that come in, take the proposal, and go line-by-line, say what
actually happened, and then report to the program officer and talk to the people about that, and then do
interim site visits along the way.
So we didn’t end up finding out at the end, you know, that it hadn’t worked terribly well. And it’s just a
way to bring another person into the field and start training them up.
ROBERT CAVANAGH: I’d like to say something that I think foundations actually do well, given that
we’ve had lots of improvement opportunities that were, you know, pointed out. And that is that in the
time when I was deaning, I don’t know, I must have raised a half a billion dollars from various and
sundry sources. And the one source that never attempted to direct the verdict, whether it was directing
the verdict on research, or directing the verdict on who ought to be hired, or directing the verdict of who
ought to be admitted, was the foundation world.
Okay? I mean there’s something to a partnership about allowing the independence of the recipient to
actually do it the way that they think they should. And I cannot say that was the case. I had, you know,
companies that wanted us to prove that, you know, cigarettes really weren’t that bad.
And I one time had, you know, a threat from a secretary of energy that if we didn’t - and I can’t
remember if we were supposed to say it should deregulate or regulate. But if we didn’t do it, you know,
there’d never be another penny from the Department of Energy. And I’ve had, you know, individual
wealthy donors who, you know, wanted trouble, you know, distant relatives admitted.
And that was not the case with the foundation world. So I think an important positive that we should
talk about in grant making and gift giving and so on, is allowing independence of the recipient, and
that’s not always normal.
MARY MCCORMICK: Is that [inaudible]?
FEMALE VOICE: Good question.
ROBERT CAVANAGH: I haven’t done this for ten years, but -
MARY MCCORMICK: In reading in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and other
places, you’re reading more and more about foundations actually -
ROBERT CAVANAGH: Directing the verdict.
MARY MCCORMICK: Yes, directing the verdict.
ROBERT CAVANAGH: Hmm. Yeah, that was something I never experienced.
MARY MCCORMICK: And in fact -
ROBERT CAVANAGH: And it was great.
MARY MCCORMICK: - with some success, depending on your perspective in a number of institutions.
ROBERT CAVANAGH: Is it directing the verdict or is - I mean for example if an institution goes and
says I’d sure like a grant from the Olin Foundation to, you know, look at issues of regulation. That’s
different than I’d sure like a grant from the Mott Foundation to look at issues of regulation. Right?
There’s some self-selection. In other words the person who goes to Olin may have a different set of
priorities from the person who goes to Mott.
JOSEPH DOLAN: But I know Sara’s comment about the golden rule and the donor always has the
upper hand and we’ve talked about that. We all have heard that our whole life. On the other hand think
about this. The donor chooses the grantee. The grantee sent in proposals, approached the donors -
foundation or individual donor, venture capitals, or whatever for something they want to do.
But it’s the donor, it’s the foundation, it’s the program officer who says I believe in your cause. I believe
in you. And that’s what starts the whole process. Up front, right at the beginning the donor and the
foundation itself is saying we like you, we like what you’re doing, we believe in your cause. And that’s
where it all begins.
And so I think there’s another dynamic here that we’re missing, and that’s it.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Yeah, I mean I want to add to that now. You know, I’m not going to dispute
that. I mean that’s what - everybody laughed at me when I said I only give to my friends as if, you
know, this is the most ludicrous thing.
That’s what I meant by friendship is that in a way you don’t choose your friends - of course you do, but
you choose - something chooses you that - a shared interest, a cause is the way that you put it, that
there’s something that both of you look to as higher than yourselves and you both devote time to it and
you share together and you try to advance it and you enjoy it.
And that’s what I see myself trying to do and that’s why I see the personal elements of involvement so
important, because if I stand back and I say, well, you know, I care about this but, you know, I’m going
to give you some money and see how you do and then, you know, you report back to me every so often.
I can’t help but think that that gives the impression that I don’t really care as much as I say that I do, that
I’m aloof, that I’m, you know, I can sit back while you work and kind of oversee. And so when I say
give to my friends I mean give to people that I want to work with because we both care about this other
thing that we’re trying to advance this way.
So I would say grants -
IRENE CROWE: [Inaudible]. Just to make sure I’m understanding correctly, it seems to me that you
are saying that in fact the act of granting provides the opportunity for the funder to be able to do what
funders, as you were saying, are supposed to be doing. Namely it’s a - in this sense it’s a dependent
relationship both ways because we are, in fact, dependent upon and we’re public servants. And in that
sense the creating of the opportunity is what’s critical.
But I heard you also saying something slightly more than that, namely, that what being a public servant
means is a combination of you and the people you’re giving money to recognizing a common view of
what may or may not be a common good, but that somehow partakes of that. And I’d say that’s some
description of the way I give grants.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Yeah. I mean Mona said earlier, you know, we have to remember that the
grant makers depend upon the grantees. And I mean I would put it even stronger, that both of us depend
upon something else - the vision or perception of some common good.
That’s why I was kind of shocked when you said we’ve got to look at this from a self-interested
standpoint. You know, I’m a grantee, I’m out to get the money, I’m going to say what I want to say to
FEMALE VOICE: [Inaudible] -
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Well, what do you care about? You know, that’s - I mean presumably we
both care about something other than the transaction, and that’s what I took from your earlier comments
MONA YOUNIS: I was speaking about the donor.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Oh.
MONA YOUNIS: not the grantee. But it would be great if we could get all 80,000 foundations to
become sensitive and grateful. That would be lovely. It would be. But I’m not that optimistic. I’ll be
happy if they just recognize their self-interest which is if you want to get this work done and done well
you have to trust the grant seeker.
But to - could I just - this is something - I mean I - I’ve sort of struggled with this question of the
relationship between the two that sometimes on my worst days of my self-hating funders days I found
myself - and I’m meeting with a grant seeker, I found myself saying things like, I swear, why don’t you
unionize? Why don’t you organize and withhold proposals from foundations until foundations get their
act together as a collectivity.
Say, –we’re not taking your money. We’re not taking your money until you deal with us respectfully,
until your application process is sensible and reasonable, until your proposal - you know, why don’t you
do that? And I get these, of course, looks like, you know -
MONA YOUNIS: But, you know, and they - and you know what they say? They say - I say - I remind
them, I say foundations have to give 5% of their corpus away every year and if there aren’t groups out
there willing to take it they’re stuck. What are they going to do?
And their response is always but if we don’t take it someone else will take it. I’ll say, well, look at labor.
Look at the labor movement. They figured it out. Didn’t they? Unions, factories, workers -
MONA YOUNIS: Well, that’s why historians are so important. Now, okay, if you have a factory and
you have workers, they say we’re not going to work. We’re not going to work. Well, how is a factory
going to continue operating? And you can get scabs, you know, the whole thing. But that’s how
frustrating I find that -
MONA YOUNIS: We need to hear from them and they need to figure out a way to force us to hear.
Not because it’s a nice thing to do. It’s the only way we’re going to be effective. It’s the only way
we’re going to do really good, serious, solid grant making.
EUGENE R. WILSON: There’s a flipside to the trust and the relationship. And we could speak
theoretically or we can speak realistically. I was struck in the first conversation that we had back in -
when was it? March? In Washington of how much convergence there was in favor of grassroots
organizations from Marvin Olasky and Bill Schambra and Rick Cohen. And you could assume that they
might come from very different political points of view. They all agreed that the real future here had to
Giving USA just came out. A troubling statistic is that the increase in giving tends to be coming from
major grants to major institutions. Okay? And that begs the issue of all of these grassroots non-profits
who don’t have access to philanthropy and who can’t get the attention, but maybe is where the strength
of democracy is going to survive.
So I worry about that aspect of relationships. An executive at Arco once told me when we were being
asked to make a million dollar grant to Stanford and we wanted to do community development in South
Central Los Angeles and in East Los Angeles, when it comes right down to it, you always invest in
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: You know, Keith’s comment about only giving to friends suggests that
giving is –or should be in the context of a community and a particular kind of community - small
community. A community of people who are close enough to know each other fairly well. And -
A. KEITH WHITAKER: But Sharon asked me at the break, she said I hope you have a lot of friends.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Luckily I don’t have a lot of money.
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: Well, and going to, you know, what might be fateful trends, now connecting
to Gene’s comment. And you, Gene, would know more about this than I would, and the shape of the
wealth that’s coming down the line. But I think it’s a good thing that the old centralized bureaucratic
scientific - social scientific driven philanthropy model, the foundation model, may in fact decline in this
new era. And that, you know, the wealth is coming in a massive way, but it’s coming in smaller
segments. It’s coming in many, many smaller segments.
And one hopes that the trend that Tim’s research on small foundations shows continues. Namely, that an
awful lot of those small foundations will be giving in their own backyard, so they will be giving to
When you take the language of friendship and partnership and extend it to people who really can’t be
partners and friends, it’s a lie. It’s a way to conceal a power relationship that really should be recognized
when you’re dealing with friends who really cannot be friends or partners who cannot really be partners.
I think that’s part of what irritates everybody about that language when it’s used in the international
context or even as sort of a large regional context.
And the other side of that, interestingly, Sara’s comment about, you know, we’ve become ever more
restrictive in our grants as we have become ever more sort of focused on one’s obligation to the national
community in a sense, right? More obliged to the federal government to report results that the public can
see. The public understood as the nation ends up focusing grant making in these very particularistic
ways that in fact cuts against the kind of grant making one wants to get in the local community, which
would get away from these project specific grants and be more directed toward general operating
In other words in order to explain to the IRS what we’re doing I would have to make sure that Mrs.
Taylor specifies some outcomes so that in our report we can specify outcomes. But frankly, you know, it
would be a shame for us to think about that community as our primary community. And let’s say I think
that, you know, the community that we really are responsible to is Milwaukee and Wisconsin and then
our grant making with Mrs. Taylor requires a certain kind of flexibility that cuts against this other trend
toward federal clamping down and increasing reporting.
AMY KASS: I’m a little confused. You seem to be suggesting that partnerships or relationships
between grantors and grantees are really always a fraud, that such relationships are always power
relations. So we should call a spade a spade. And, furthermore, as you can’t have more than a power
relationship between such people, you should avoid any kind of relationship by giving only operating
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: Well, no -
AMY KASS: - [inaudible] -
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: - I think - I think it’s recognition of a fact, which is that you give general
operating support to a Mrs. Taylor whom you have gotten to know over the years. You don’t give
general operating support and, you know -
AMY KASS: I see.
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: - just tacking a fly on -
AMY KASS: So you do -
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: - something.
AMY KASS: - give to your friends or you give to the people that you know.
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: You have some kind of relationship with, and that can be called, perhaps
over time, a partnership. Although I must say that that’s terribly presumptive on my part - the notion
that I, as a grant maker, as a program officer, you know, in a foundation, and somehow a partner with
Mrs. Taylor is an incredible act of presumption. That she’s out there every day, you know, fighting drug
dealers, raising money for low-income elderly. What do I know about her world? Absolutely nothing.
And so the language of partnership is inadequate in several senses.
SARA ENGELHARDT: There are a couple things about the relationship that I feel moved to talk about
here. One has to do with what I see as a very idealistic idea about knowing your grantees and having a
relationship with them. And that is definitely a style of grant making.
When I started to write my paper, actually, I began to think about not grantees but applicants because
that’s where the worst problem is in the field and it’s because for every grantee there are at least 20 - I
mean this was the case when I was screening proposals at Carnegie. There were 20 applicants that were
And that’s a lot of the pressure on an individual foundation and on - I think on the field as a whole,
because if you’re looking at the collection of foundations in the room, for every grantee you have who
thinks you’re wonderful and that they have a personal relationship with you, there are 20 people out
there who -
MALE VOICE: Yeah.
SARA ENGELHARDT: - think maybe you shouldn’t be in business.
FEMALE VOICE: That’s right.
WILLIAM SCHAMBRA: Barry Karl said when you make a grant you get one ingrate and a host of
SARA ENGELHARDT: That’s right. And - yeah. And so - but I decided to make, you know, let’s not
go there. Let’s focus on grantees. That’s hard enough. And it is hard enough. I mean I think we’ve
proven it here today.
I would also then like to point out that -- and I think I said something to this effect in my paper -- most
grantees are friends. That is if you look in the foundation directory and we had the 80,000, before you
get to the end of the top 1,000 largest in the top foundation directory, already all of them are saying we
don’t accept applications, we don’t accept proposals. We already know who - we already know who
we’re making those grants to. Those, you know, those are your grantees. Don’t bother to send us a
And those, I feel, are almost like the gift relationship. It’s a personal relationship. It’s not necessarily
completely personal. It could be the institution you, you know, that cured your disease or where you
went to college. And that’s fine at some level. But I think a lot of people feel that that’s not enough for
a whole institutionalizing of philanthropy. For you could do that with your money without setting up a
foundation, without setting up a separate fund at all.
So what is the value of a foundation? And I think, in the end, it has to be in that relationship because, as
we’ve all said, a foundation, unless it’s an operating foundation, and more and more grant making
foundations are turning into operating foundations because they don’t want to have grantees. They want
to do it themselves.
So I think the grantee situation is a very complex one, but in the end that’s the only relationship we’ve
got that has any meaning, so we’d better just make the best out of it.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: You said the smaller foundations don’t take applications and that that’s not
enough institutionally. What’s not enough about it?
SARA ENGELHARDT: Well, it’s not enough –because you don’t need an institution to have those
relationships. You already know those people.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Well, I -
SARA ENGELHARDT: You aren’t going out - you aren’t creating a process that has to be managed
with reports and this and that and the other thing. You want to give them money. Give them the money.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: I mean there are other uses for foundations than just housing a grant process,
but I take it you - that still begs a question of why - what’s not enough about not having all those things
that go along with being institutional as you described it? Why take that further step?
SARA ENGELHARDT: Well, I’m saying that the relationship that you have as a grant maker with a
grantee where you actually do have the give and take of expecting something and caring about exactly
how they carry out the grant or use your money. While it raises a lot of issues we’ve talked about, it is a
different kind of relationship and I think it’s why foundations exist, as opposed to just to give money to
friends. People you know, people whose work you already believe in. It’s - you aren’t asking as much
back from those gifts.
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Why ask more?
SARA ENGELHARDT: What?
A. KEITH WHITAKER: Why ask more? I mean why take that further step to ask more?
SARA ENGELHARDT: There’s a different value. The philanthropic resource is a precious and valuable
one that should not be reserved for our own narrowness of friendship and/or network, and that there
exists the possibility that there are people in the broader society across this country, across whatever
region or your funding network, that may have a very good idea that relates to your mission but you
don’t know them. And you should be open to receiving those ideas and, you know, let them take a shot
at this money, which is for the public and, you know, it’s not for our personal use, nor that just of our
So that’s one point of view. And I know there is a trend for foundations not to accept things over the
transom, but I hope some of us hold onto being open to that because for as - you turn down a lot, but you
also meet a lot of new ideas, new approaches, and new people that would not have been in your normal
network. So that’s a value that could be different than yours.
JOSEPH DOLAN: Part of this is size and capacity -
FEMALE VOICE: Mm-hmm.
JOSEPH DOLAN: - of the grant maker or donor. Keith may be entirely -- he probably is -- entirely
legitimate in the way you operate and the world you deal with, but when you’re in New York City, such
as yours truly, and you have 8,000 active grant seekers, 200 active grantees out there that you’re dealing
with every year, 700 proposals a year, never mind all the other mail I get. All of you know this. All the
other mail, conferences, 17 investment advisors, with two staff people?
I mean it’s just the world - our world is sorting out. Sorting out and trying to identify and find the very
best, as you said, quality. But we are trying to identify, sort out, find the best, –what will change the
state of the art or make a difference. And that’s what we do in our world and our situation in this huge
So many of us are in different circumstances and I think that’s something that has to be recognized.
NIAMANI MUTIMA: You know, I think that actually to pick up on your comment, I think different
foundations are able to have different types of relationships with their grantees. And for example there’s
a lot of conversation among the Africa funders.
There’s the group of funders who fund grassroots. They fund direct. They usually fund small amounts
of money. They make a lot of site visits, which everybody is trying to figure out how they can make so
many site visits since the budgets are so small. But anyhow. And they’re very hands on. And they very
much advocate that this is the way you should do grant making.
And then very often in the discussion that they have with foundations who have larger amounts of
money who say, well, first of all it doesn’t - it’s not cost-effective for us to give a grant for less than
$25,000. That’s number one. So really we don’t - we can’t do anything with a request for $5,000.
So that the relationship that these smaller foundations, smaller grant makers funding grassroots who
want to go direct, that’s a different kind of relationship. And a lot of factors, as you’re suggesting, you
know, go into making that relationship possible.
A large foundation that really, in all honesty, says I can’t do a grant for less than $25,000 because it’s
just not cost effective. I can’t do it. It also means that if they’re giving out large amounts of money they
probably are having different kind of relationships and they may be less, you know, personal
relationships with an individual who’s running a program, and they may be more institutional
relationships, you know, with the management of a large NGO that, you know, the president and the
boards and that kind of thing.
So I think when we talk about relationships with grantees, grantees come in all shapes and sizes and we
can’t have the same relationship with all of them because the relationship between the, you know, the
foundation and who it is, it’s just not possible. You know?
I think that I’m sometimes very bothered by the need to somehow come to some common denominator
when you talk about philanthropy and foundations and giving because I don’t - there really isn’t a
common denominator. You know, just, like, for example there’s not a common denominator in terms of
The other comment that I want to make is that, you know, it’s funny, we talk about grantees and grantors
as if one sits on this side of the table, other sits on the other. But the groups or the individuals or
whomever that are being funded to do this work are part of a larger context, a larger community for the
most part. I mean, you know, every so often you may, you know, have what they used to - what we call
sometimes the briefcase NGO, which is the NGO that doesn’t really exist in anything other than paper.
But, you know, it’s part of a context so that it’s very difficult for a non-profit or an NGO to function in
isolation and to function, you know, without having any connection to the field and what’s going on.
My experience has been that it’s very easy for a foundation to do that. It’s very easy for a foundation to,
you know, to - I mean for whatever reason. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. I’m not putting a value
judgment on it.
But I’m just saying that - so therefore we have to be careful about the fact that, you know, these are two
very different worlds, which kind of, you know, begs the point that I was making about this whole - what
I think is a very disingenuous use of this word partnership. Because, you know, partnerships - there are
all kinds of partnerships and as long as you spell out what they are.
But just because you call it something else, you know, doesn’t mean that - I mean if we’ve had a
partnership, for example, as a grant seeker - I’ve had a relationship with a foundation that I would say to
my delight and surprise is a true partnership. And the reason why I call it a partnership is because
there’s an ongoing discussion about what’s happening, what I’m thinking, what’s going on with the
organization, where the organization is, you know, the screw ups, the mistakes, the whatever.
And then we had a very delightful conversation and the person kind of listened and so on and so forth
and then, you know, came back to me and said, well, I think that it would help you if you had this. And I
was, like, stunned for a moment because it was, like - and I said, well, you know, it’s interesting. I never
thought about that. Maybe I do need that.
And when I thought about it - you know, so to me that was a partnership and that was a really, you
know, good thing. But this whole thing about grantees and relationships, you know, I don’t think there’s
any one, you know, way that relationships should be because some of them - you just can’t have them.
Ford can’t have a relationship that, you know, Firelight Foundation has because Ford can’t afford to give
grants that are, you know, less than a certain amount of money where Firelight, for example, may not be
able to give grants over a certain amount of money. So.
AMY KASS: Our time is just about over. So, let me end with one general observation made by someone
who lived many long years ago. I found the passage that I would like to read well before our
conversation began and brought it along only half anticipating that it might find its way into the
conversation. But as it turns out, it actually picks up on several things that were said.
I think we all agree that the relationship between grantors and grantees is a thorny but important matter
and should be agitated, discussed, and thought through far more. But notwithstanding Niamani’s story
about the partnership she came to with one foundation, most of us seem also to agree with Irene’s
observation, namely, that matters of power inevitably intrude and shape those relationships: the grantor
has the money and that is always going to make a difference. So, relationships between grantors and
grantees can seldom, if ever, really be symmetrical or equal in the sense that the term partnership
But, still, a relationship does mean that both people get something out of being connected with one
another, that both give and take. Some of you noted this by pointing to the fact that grantors and grantees
are necessarily mutual dependent or inseparable. Others noted how both are in fact beneficiaries. Still
others, how both look to the same good, as friends do. Well, the passage I want to read out really picks
up on most of these ideas. And in addition, it helps us to see why Jim’s suggestion about gratitude is not
necessarily at odds with Mona’s suggestion about self-interest, especially if self-interest is rightly
understood. And, it responds, as well, to Niamani’s claim that grantors want to be liked.
Gene is actually responsible for my tracking this down. His invocation of Aristotle’s wisdom on the age-
old problem of giving reminded me of Aristotle’s wisdom on precisely this matter. The passage is, like
the one he cited, from Aristotle’s Ethics, and can be found in Aristotle’s discussion of friendship. Here is
what he says:
“Benefactors [grantors] love those they have benefited more than those who have been well treated
[grantees] love those that have treated them well, and this is discussed as though it were paradoxical.
“Most people think it is because the beneficiaries [or grantees] are in the position of debtors, and
benefactors of creditors; and . . . [hence] that benefactors wish the objects of their action to exist since
they will then get their gratitude, while the beneficiaries take no interest in making this return . . .
“[Yes,] it is quite like human nature [to think this]; for most people are forgetful and are more anxious to
be well treated than to treat others well. But the reason that benefactors love their beneficiaries more
than their beneficiaries love them would seem to be more deeply rooted in the nature of things.
“The case of debtors and creditors is not even analogous. For creditors have no friendly feeling to their
debtors, but only a wish that they may be kept safe with a view to what is to be got from them. While
benefactors feel friendship and love for those they have served, even if these are not of any use to them
and never will be.
“This is what happens with craftsmen, too. Every man loves his own handiwork better than he would be
loved by it if it came alive. This is what the position of benefactors is like. For that which they have
treated well is their handiwork. [It is a manifestation, in activity, of their hopes, their dreams, their
ambitions, all of which would otherwise merely exist only in potential]. And therefore benefactors love
their beneficiaries more than the handiwork does its maker.”
Now if Aristotle is right about what grantees make possible for grantors, and if grantors remain mindful
of that, then there might be firmer ground for a real relationship. The relationship would still not be
symmetrical, as each would recognize that he/she gets and gives different sorts of things. But there
would still be a real relationship, as each would really see him/herself as both a giver and a getter.
Moreover, were grantors to come to understand themselves as beneficiaries for the sorts of reasons that
Aristotle describes, they may very well come to view their grantees with the gratitude to which Jim
referred, even as they also recognized that their own self interest, which Mona alerted us to, was being
Thank you all, again, for being with us today and thanks, especially, for your good will and lively