A Versatile American Institution

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2013-02-26
  • Publisher: Brookings Inst Pr

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America's grantmaking foundations have grown rapidly over the course of recent decades, even in the face of financial and economic crises. They now number over 75,000, and as of 2009, they held over $583 billion in assets. Foundations have a great deal of freedom, enjoy widespread legitimacy, and wield considerable influence. In this book, David Hammack and Helmut Anheier follow up their edited volume American Foundationswith a comprehensive account of what American foundations have done with that independence and power. What exactly have been the contributions of philanthropic foundations to American society, and what might the future hold for them? Philanthropic foundations exist around the world, but the U.S. sector stands out. In no other modern society are foundations more numerous; nowhere are they so prominent --or so autonomous or so widely accepted as a private actor for public benefit. Yet while America's foundations themselves have not necessarily changed a tremendous amount over the past hundred years, they have operated in changing contexts, varying significantly from field to field and from place to place. These contexts have changed greatly as foundations have moved from one of four distinct periods to the next: the sectarian, particular-purpose era of the nineteenth century; the classic institution-building era of the first half of the twentieth century; a postwar period of struggle for strategy and relevance, lasting into the 1990s; and a new period characterized by acceptance of variety and a tighter focus on results. Today's foundations and their constituents, potential grantees, analysts, and observers all can learn a great deal from the past, but they must consider past experience in the context of present realities. This book will inform and facilitate that critically important process.

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