Amid growing concern about inequality in the United States and around the globe, rising public distrust of government and other institutions, technological shifts, and anxiety about issues such as climate change and terrorism, foundation leaders are considering their role in addressing society’s challenges.
Foundations are, after all, unique actors in our society. They are free to address a vast array of issues, including the most vexing problems—the very ones that have defied government or market solutions. This freedom offers great opportunities, but it also comes with great challenges. There are few external signals to let foundations know when they are on the right or wrong track, and foundation leaders can struggle to determine how best to maximize their foundations’ potential to create positive impact.
Foundations have contributed to significant progress over the past century on a range of issues, from the environment to civil rights. Yet, amid constant change, foundation leaders are concerned about whether foundations are as well-positioned as they need to be to do the work that they believe needs to be done in the coming decades.
This is among the themes that emerged when we set out to understand what foundation leaders have to say about the changing landscape in which they work—and about the future of foundation philanthropy.