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July 2011 (2 posts)

Glasspockets Find: Bronfman Philanthropies Chooses Transparency for Its Sunset Years
July 22, 2011

The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) has announced the steps it has taken and will continue to take as it prepares to close in 2016.

In 2001, Charles Bronfman and his wife, Andrea--who passed away in 2006--chose 2016 as the year by which ACBP would, as Charles Bronfman and ACBP President Jeffrey Solomon write in an open letter on the foundation's web site, "accomplish the goal of ensuring that the missions of the organizations that ACBP has incubated wouldAs with any good investment, there is a time to invest and a time to exit. - Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon continue." "There has been little written about the dynamics, challenges, and choices that need to be addressed [when a foundation sunsets]," write Bronfman and Solomon in the letter. "[F]or those reasons, we will transparently document our process as it unfolds. We will also take responsibility for stimulating a wider and deeper conversation among donors and professionals in the philanthropic community about the philosophic, strategic, and day-to-day considerations that are involved, and our learning and experiences along the way."

Bronfman and Solomon go on to say that they have discussed ACBP's transition plans with grantees, including the support that will be available to them during the process, and that the foundation will continue to provide them with advice and back-office assistance on a regular basis. In addition, the foundation has retained outside advisors to help ensure that the missions of the incubated organizations will be preserved going forward; that the organizations will be in a position to not only survive but thrive; and that the people involved will be treated with sensitivity throughout the transition.

In April 2009, the Foundation Center released Perpetuity or Limited Lifespan: How Do Family Foundations Decide? The first large-scale examination of foundation lifespan planning, the study benchmarked the intentions, practices, and attitudes of nearly 1,100 active family foundations in 2008. With 90 percent of family foundations created since 1980, the report found that, while existing in perpetuity continued to be the norm, more than a third were either uncertain about their lifespan or planned to limit their lifespan.

By sharing experiences as they sunset in an honest and open manner, foundations like the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies can--and will--make an invaluable contribution to the field, providing guidance and important insights to many family foundations as they navigate their own transitions in leadership and service.

Please share your thoughts and comments!

-- Mark Foley

Glasspockets Find: Spotlight on the James Irvine Foundation
July 14, 2011

 

Kudos to the James Irvine Foundation for two very visible steps designed to increase its grantmaking transparency and participation. This month the Irvine Foundation announced that it will introduce a new grantmaking strategy for its support of the arts in California, effective 2012. After spending the past year gathering input from grantees and other experts, the foundation has identified major shifts in the California arts sector, due primarily to demographic and technological changes, and hopes to address the resulting challenges and opportunities posed to nonprofit arts organizations.

 

Eager to engage the public and to promote the new, still-evolving strategy, the foundation has posted a new video webinar of a public, online presentation made to its grantees and the California arts community on June 27, 2011, and is soliciting feedback on its web site and its Facebook and Twitter pages. The web site also features more than a dozen frequently asked questions that relate to its current and future support of the arts in California.

The foundation's current priorities will continue to guide its grantmaking for the remainder of 2011. As a supporter of the California arts community since its founding in 1937, the James Irvine Foundation is to be commended not only for making a thoughtful review of its existing strategy, but most especially, for its efforts to think out loud and be as inclusive and transparent as possible, with its many communication devices, as it prepares to launch its new strategy.

 

In a separate effort to be more transparent, the Irvine Foundation has taken the traditional features of its annual report and added more detail and analysis of the foundation's performance in order to measure its progress and to hold itself accountable to its long-term goals. The foundation's just-released 2010 Annual Performance Report not only includes such common annual report features as a complete listing of its 2010 grant awards, but also:

 

  • examines progress in each of its grantmaking programs and its effectiveness as a philanthropic institution;
  • allows online viewers to watch an introductory video from Jim Canales, president and CEO;
  • provides a section on "Exercising Leadership" and another on "Constituent Feedback" that includes highlights of its second Grantee Perception Report, commissioned by the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Please share your thoughts regarding the Irvine Foundation's efforts to be more transparent. All comments are welcome!

-- Mark Foley

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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

    The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation Center.

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