Help! How do I convince funders to make endowment grants?




Dear Regi, 

I am an old timer in the foundation world, so I am intimately familiar with the inherent power imbalance in the funder-grantee relationship. I want to know how we can interest more foundations in making endowment grants to their flagship grantee partners – a ‘share the wealth’ campaign if you will.

We know that an important building block towards long-term sustainability of nonprofits is an endowment. We also know that many of the challenging issues facing foundations today, such as eliminating inequality, fighting global warming, gender equity, and eradicating racism will not be solved via standard foundation practices. The field needs to take bold steps now to ensure the long-term viability of those key organisations to effect major changes. 

When I was a program officer a large American Foundation in the mid-1990s, the foundation did make endowment grants to organisations, so this concept has precedent. Why isn’t it more widely accepted? What can we do to advance this discussion among our colleagues?


Dear Old-Timer, 

Share the what

Oh, thank you for allowing me to pontificate on the concept of sharing which is de rigueur these days. Our spanky new sharing economy (think: AirBnB and Uber) has resulted in every piece of property valued more highly as a temporary hotel than an actual home and every driver is self-employed with no health insurance or benefits of any type. Great! Of course, the IPOs have generated immense wealth for the happy few who ultimately may become philanthropists. 

No, I wouldn’t rely on a sharing mentality to create an endowment. 

What can we do to advance this discussion? How about ‘just do it?’ Fund endowments and make the case for doing so! Point to the precedence and show what can be achieved when we liberate civil society partners from endless cycles of grant-chasing, and rather make it possible for them to do the important work they’re meant to do. Though you’re old, I’m sure you remember high school parties: peer pressure works! Send a message to your funder buddies that now is the moment to build the stability of key organisations that have stepped up over the course over the Covid-19 pandemic but are now exhausted and deserve more from us.

And it shouldn’t be hard, right? The rich just keep getting richer. Of the 62 living signatories to the Giving Pledge, their personal wealth has increased by 95 per cent over the period 2010 – 2020, with their total wealth increasing an additional 28 per cent over the first four months of the pandemic. What’s that I smell? Is it endowment funds?

Cupcakes and endowments, 

Read more Philanthropy Confidential or ask Regi your own question.

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