The article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about Rebecca Rimel at the Pew Charitable Trusts raises more questions than its answers about Pew’s decision to go from private foundation to public charity. All right, so Pew’s decision to become a public charity enables it to solicit additional funds: why is this an advantage? Most nonprofit executives would describe raising money as a distraction from their mission; why would an executive seek such a distraction?
Between the lines, the Journal article suggests that raising additional money was the only way for Pew to retain the kind of impact it seeks, after serious stock-market losses late last decade. But unless we think the public good requires the Trusts to be Philadelphia’s cultural czar, there’s no particular reason to celebrate its ability to concentrate arts dollars in its hands. But most likely it has such an ability: in the clubby little world of philanthropy, what mere arts organization can hope to compete with a former foundation in securing other foundations’ support?
Who elected Pew to decide that Philadelphia should expend energy and money trying to rival New York in cultural offerings (a futile endeavor if there ever was one)? Or–as ought to be asked more often, in these days of mega-foundations, even ones that have plenty of money of their own–who died and made them Pope?