Anyone who deals with philanthropy understands that part of the price of admission to the coffers of some foundations is a willingness to deal with philanthropic fads that are absolute one day and obsolete the next. Sometimes the constructs change with top leadership and sometimes they just wear themselves and us out, and wither away. Here Bill Schambra takes on the recent article, “Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World” as one example of this syndrome.
In this article, the director of the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal at the Hudson Institute raises questions about how an obsessive focus on outcomes and insistence on proof of “success” threatens to gut the work of the sector.
Schambra says that much of “community buy-in” is, for philanthropists, a mirage, or just another technical problem to be solved by community-relations experts skilled in the subtle sciences of manipulation and consensus-creation.
Outcomes-based metrics may be more accurate and more effective, but they do not speak to the heart the way that program-focused endeavors do.
Here is a speech on the shortcomings of strategic philanthropy given last Wednesday by Bill Schambra to the Hewlett Foundation. Please watch NPQ for a response next week from Paul Brest, the former president of the foundation and current professor at Stanford Law. In the meantime, we welcome your own commentary.
It is rare to have such straightforward criticism invited and given to a large foundation. We congratulate all involved.
In the face of the departure of the Ford Foundation’s Luis Ubiñas, William A. Schambra’s on the hunt for some truth to counteract the nonprofit world’s culture of polite silence.