A new report from the Foundation Center looks at the "direct charitable activities" of the nation’s grantmakers–that is, where they’re spending their money other than on grants. Though such expenditures might include, oh, direct charitable activities (like providing services to people who need them), the report finds that fewer than 10% of grantmakers actually do that. Instead, most foundations divert money from grants for the purposes of
- convening conferences and other events that serve a broad audience;
- providing technical assistance or training to grantees; and
- supporting the service of their staff on advisory boards of other charities or public commissions.
All very worthy causes, no doubt; as a consultant, the Nonprofiteer is particularly enthusiastic about the sums spent on technical assistance to grantees. But now that we know where funders direct their non-grant money, would it be possible to learn whether that money is actually more effective than it would be in the hands of grantees?
PhilanTopic reports that an American Enterprise Institute scholar disapproves of foundations’ actually providing services. (What a surprise, when the Institute exists to disapprove of having social services provided by anybody.) But the Nonprofiteer disapproves of "direct charitable activities" because that’s mostly a misnomer. If foundations aren’t providing services and they’re not giving grants, why exactly are these people getting a free pass from the Federal treasury?
Note that while the report purports to document a "growing" use of devices other than grantmaking, it’s a baseline study so there’s no point of comparison from which to assess growth.