Foundation Friday: A guide for foundation board chairs

BoardSource has published a guide for foundation Board chairs whose specifics are right on–maintain mission focus, established a grantmaking strategy–but which starts off on exactly the wrong foot by claiming that

Foundations make an incredible difference in our communities. They educate children and care for the elderly, shelter the homeless and make health care accessible, advance the arts, and protect the environment.


While the piece goes on to acknowledge that foundations only do any of those things through the charities they support, to the Nonprofiteer’s mind the damage has been done.  Much of what’s wrong with the nonprofit sector can be traced to the notion that foundations–which provide less than 10% of the resources needed to sustain the sector–somehow make the sector work.

With due respect to our foundation colleagues, it’s charities that make the sector work.  At their best, foundations can draw attention to charities’ efforts, and can pay some of their bills.  But let’s stay clear about who’s actually educating, and caring, and sheltering, and advancing, and protecting everything that matters. 


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