The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which published the 1997 study, drew the following general lessons for grantmakers seeking to influence policy trends: 1) Understand the importance of ideology and overarching frameworks; 2) Help to build strong institutions by providing ample general operating support; 3) Maintain a national policy focus and concentrate resources; 4) Recognize the importance of media, marketing and persuasive communications; 5) Create and cultivate public intellectuals and policy leaders; 6) Support multiple social change strategies including advocacy, leadership development and constituency mobilization; and 7) Take a long-haul approach.
Her conclusion (p49): ‘… it is the combination of all seven that has made conservative philanthropy especially consequential. The demonstrated willingness of these foundations to act in such political and strategic terms serves as a sharp reminder of how much can be accomplished given clarity of vision and steadiness of purpose.’
If an increasingly polarized American politics and public policy arena are anything to go by, some 16 years later this original recipe is still proving its worth. One should not be surprised that its ideological co-founders are emboldened to take the gloves off. Philanthropists, please take note. To the extent that they ever did, Queensbury’s rules no longer apply to fights over public policy.
Alan Fowler is Emeritus Professor, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University.