American Foundations: Roles and Contributions

Brookings Institution Press
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Foundations play an essential part in the philanthropic activity that defines so much of American life. No other nation provides its foundations with so much autonomy and freedom of action as does the United States. Liberated both from the daily discipline of the market and from direct control by government, American foundations understandably attract great attention. As David Hammack and Helmut Anheier note in this volume, "Americans have criticized foundations for... their alleged conservatism, liberalism, elitism, radicalism, devotion to religious tradition, hostility to religion—in short, for commitments to causes whose significance can be measured, in part, by the controversies they provoke. Americans have also criticized foundations for ineffectiveness and even foolishness."

Their size alone conveys some sense of the significance of American foundations, whose assets amounted to over $530 billion in 2008 despite a dramatic decline of almost 22 percent in the previous year. And in 2008 foundation grants totaled over $45 billion. But what roles have foundations actually played over time, and what distinctive roles do they fill today? How have they shaped American society, how much difference do they make? What roles are foundations likely to play in the future?

This comprehensive volume, the product of a three-year project supported by the Aspen Institute's program on the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy, provides the most thorough effort ever to assess the impact and significance of the nation's large foundations. In it, leading researchers explore how foundations have shaped—or failed to shape—each of the key fields of foundation work.

American Foundations takes the reader on a wide-ranging tour, evaluating foundation efforts in education, scientific and medical research, health care, social welfare, international relations, arts and culture, religion, and social change.

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About the author

Helmut K. Anheier is dean of the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, academic director of the Center for Social Investment at Heidelberg University, and professor of public policy and social welfare at UCLA. He was previously a Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics, and a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. His publications include Creative Philanthropy, written with Diana Leat (Routledge, 2006) and Nonprofit Organizations (Routledge, 2010).

David C. Hammack is Hiram C. Haydn Professor of History at Case Western Reserve University, where he is also a leader of the Faculty Council of the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations. He is past president of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action. His books include Globalization, Philanthropy, and Civil Society, edited with Steven Heydemann (Indiana, 2009) and Making the Nonprofit Sector in the United States (Indiana, 2000).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Sep 1, 2010
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Pages
457
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ISBN
9780815704577
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Public Policy / General
Social Science / Philanthropy & Charity
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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"It is a delight to seen an anthology on nonprofit history done so well."—Barry Karl, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"This is a volume that everyone concerned about nonprofits—scholar, practitioner, and citizen—will find useful and illuminating."—Peter Dobkin Hall, Program on Non-Profit Organizations
Yale Divinity School

"A remarkable book."—Robert Putnam, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

[One to come from John Simon, School of Law, Yale University by Jan. 13th and others are being solicited.]

Unique among nations, America conducts almost all of its formally organized religious activity, and many cultural, arts, human service, educational, and research activities through private nonprofit organizations. Though partially funded by government, as well as by fees and donations, American nonprofits have pursued their missions with considerable independence. Many have amassed remarkable resources and acquired some of the most impressive hospital, university, performing arts, and museum facilities in the world. While some have amassed large endowments, many that surpass one billion dollars, there are also hundreds of thousands of small nonprofits, most with no tangible resources at all.

How did the United States come to rely so heavily on nonprofits? Why has it continued to do so? What purposes do Americans seek to advance through nonprofits? How have Americans sought to control them? How have nonprofits been effected by the growth of government in the twentieth century? These questions suggest the complexity of the history of nonprofits in the United States. To help explore that history, this reader presents some of the classic documents in the development of the nonprofit sector along with important interpretations by recent scholars. The selections can be considered a representative part of a single extended conversation by the men and women who have taken part in the effort to define America and the American dream, even as they shaped what we now call the nonprofit sector. The statements by participants in the growth and development of the nonprofit sector are accompanied by essays written by historians and social scientists that provide concise surveys of important issues and periods. The essays give voice to those whose contributions to the American debate about voluntary associations and private institutions would otherwise be difficult to find or comprehend.

The selections can be considered a representative part of a single extended conversation by the men and women who have taken part in the effort to define America and the American dream, even as they shaped what we now call the nonprofit sector. The statements by participants in the growth and development of the nonprofit sector are accompanied by essays written by historians and social scientists that provide concise surveys of important issues and periods. The essays give voice to those whose contributions to the American debate about voluntary associations and private institutions would otherwise be difficult to find or comprehend.

Each selection has been chosen to define or illuminate important questions in the development of the nonprofit sector in the United States. Many include criticisms of particular nonprofit efforts, or of nonprofit activity in general. The intention is to provoke thought, not to establish an official list of readings. Though not every point of view could be included, the reader does reflect a general understanding of the nature of the nonprofit sector and its significance in the development of the United States.

Philanthropic Studies—Dwight F. Burlingame and David C. Hammack, general editors

An essential, galvanizing narrative about making a difference here and abroad—a road map to becoming the most effective global citizens we can be.

In their number one New York Times best seller Half the Sky, husband-and-wife team Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn brought to light struggles faced by women and girls around the globe, and showcased individuals and institu­tions working to address oppression and expand opportunity. A Path Appears is even more ambi­tious in scale: nothing less than a sweeping tap­estry of people who are making the world a better place and a guide to the ways that we can do the same—whether with a donation of $5 or $5 mil­lion, with our time, by capitalizing on our skills as individuals, or by using the resources of our businesses.

With scrupulous research and on-the-ground reporting, the authors assay the art and science of giving, identify successful local and global initia­tives, and share astonishing stories from the front lines of social progress. We see the compelling, in­spiring truth of how real people have changed the world, upending the idea that one person can’t make a difference.

We meet people like Dr. Gary Slutkin, who devel­oped his landmark Cure Violence program to combat inner-city conflicts in the United States by applying principles of epidemiology; Lester Strong, who left a career as a high-powered television anchor to run an organization bringing in older Americans to tu­tor students in public schools across the country; MIT development economist Esther Duflo, whose pioneering studies of aid effectiveness have revealed new truths about, among other things, the power of hope; and Jessica Posner and Kennedy Odede, who are transforming Kenya’s most notorious slum by ex­panding educational opportunities for girls.

A Path Appears offers practical, results-driven advice on how best each of us can give and reveals the lasting benefits we gain in return. Kristof and WuDunn know better than most how many urgent challenges communities around the world face to­day. Here they offer a timely beacon of hope for our collective future.
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