When Foundations' Days Are Numbered

Philanthropies Prepare Groups for End as They Spend Down

Low Tide: Reboot, which receives support from the Bronfman philanthropy, hosts events such as this tashlich for Rosh Hashanah at Open Beach, San Francisco.
Rebecca Goldfarb
Low Tide: Reboot, which receives support from the Bronfman philanthropy, hosts events such as this tashlich for Rosh Hashanah at Open Beach, San Francisco.

By Amy Schiller

Published November 17, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

For ACBP-incubated projects like Slingshot, the process was far more hands-on and gradual. ACBP originally housed and covered all costs for Slingshot. In 2009, the organization began its process of spinning off into an independent operation. Will Schneider was hired as executive director, using a grant from another philanthropy, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Foundation — another spend-down foundation focused on Jewish life. Schneider’s mandate was to build the board and develop the program plan as well as fundraising materials and donor relationships that would ensure Slingshot’s sustainability independent of ACBP.

Schneider reported that, though initially it was a “slow changing of a narrative” to convince would-be donors to provide support, fundraising has gone very well for Slingshot, growing from two major funders to 18, as of this year. The best thing about the incubation and spin-off, for Schneider, was “the power to plan. I was able to organize my board and my case for support, and I had Jeff [Solomon] and Sharna [Goldseker, ACBP managing director] right down the hall to ask for advice.”

The future is a bit less certain for Avi Chai’s large family of grantees. Unlike many spend-down philanthropies that believe their aggressive spending can help resolve urgent issues, executive director Prager feels that “the needs in 2020 will be great in our field. We won’t have solved the problem by the time we go out of business.”

Asked whether he was confident that the spend-down and its investments in fundraising capacity would make Avi Chai’s grantees self-sustaining, Prager responded: “Some will [be] and some won’t. In Israel, we already wound our funding down over time… some of them have been wildly successful, and some have struggled. I can’t say I’m confident about all of them.”

Not-for-profits that previously benefited from generous support from a major foundation may be spurred to develop greater staff expertise and a broader funding base following a spend-down decision. The practices of Avi Chai and ACBP suggest that spend-downs can galvanize philanthropies to revamp their approach to focus more on crucial overhead, recruiting talented staff and developing a pool of potential funders. According to Fleishman, it may be reasonable to expect a time lag between the death of existing foundations and the emergence of obvious replacements, but “foundations can minimize the likelihood of a rude awakening for their grantees in everything they do, up to the point of the spend-down.”

Amy Schiller writes about politics, philanthropy, feminism and culture. Her work has appeared in The Nation, The Daily Beast, Salon, Alternet and other publications. You can read more at amybessschiller.com or follow her at @justaschill


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.