By Helmut K. Anheier, Diana Leat
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The Role of Foundations is to Redistribute Resources from Rich to Poor The idea that the major role of foundations is to engage in the redistribution of resources fits with the popular and historical image of helping the poor and needy. This role also fits with many, especially 19th-century, philanthropists’ descriptions of the charity approach, and their motives of giving back and paying dues, and perhaps betrays a moral uneasiness about the size of the divide between rich and poor. Certainly, today many foundations deliberately adopt a policy of funding work in especially disadvantaged communities, hoping in some way to equalize the distribution of resources.
3 Creative philanthropy A key element of our argument for a renewal of philanthropy so far has been that much of what foundations do could be done, and perhaps done equally well, by other nonprofit organizations, and even public agencies and businesses. We also suggest that other foundation-like forms such as donor-advised funds and community foundations could take on roles more conventional foundations play. Foundations should therefore concentrate on doing those things only they have the potential to do better than other institutions.
The scientific philanthropy approach, with an emphasis on change and innovation roles, faces a widening gap between potential and reality, with the planning ethos and mechanistic practice of grant-making often an obstacle to renewal and innovative ways of using philanthropic resources. In other words, the inertia that has built up in the philanthropic model over recent decades stands in the way of the very innovations and changes that foundations seek to achieve. Furthermore, without attention to dissemination and implementation (often a matter of political priorities and resource allocation) even the most innovative ideas may fail to have much impact.
CREATIVE PHILANTHROPY by Helmut K. Anheier, Diana Leat