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The future of foundations: Blending business and philanthropy
The world of philanthropy and the world around philanthropy are changing. To thrive, foundations must reinvigorate their approaches by being more visionary, collaborative, and innovative, according to Steve Case, chairman of the Case Foundation. Many of those changes are already coming, including a new crop of philanthropists with fresh ideas and approaches.
Case and Steve Gunderson addressed the Council on Foundations' Family Foundations Conference on Jan. 30, 2006, in Honolulu, Hawaii. The webcast of their presentations is online.
"There's no logical reason why the private sector and the social sector should operate on separate levels, where one is about making money and the other about serving society."
Connecting with businesses is essential for foundations to function in the changing climate, and to overcome traditional barriers between making money and serving society, Case said. "We live in a world that is increasingly networked, interlinked, and interdependent, where old divides of boundary and belonging are getting blurred. We're seeing the way cooperation across barriers of distance and culture is bringing about advances inconceivable not long ago. Likewise, we need to expand perceptions of how to engage in philanthropy -- to bring in new actors and forge new alliances that leverage our collective abilities."
In turn, Case said, the private sector will welcome this new collaboration. "There's no logical reason why the private sector and the social sector should operate on separate levels, where one is about making money and the other about serving society," he said. "Today's executives understand that in order for their enterprises to thrive and grow and attract the very best talent, they need to be able to draw on a healthy, well-educated workforce; offer safe, clean neighborhoods to prospective employees; sell to consumers with high enough levels of income to buy their products; and conduct themselves in a way that is attractive in shareholders' eyes. And that means, today, the business of business is social engagement as well."
He also challenged philanthropists to embrace a new long-term identity and approach. "It's up to each of us to explore and be proactive, so that we can become not just capable managers, but visionary leaders," he said. "And not just effective stewards, but inspirational shapers of change. If we can unleash a new, entrepreneurial, collaborative kind of philanthropy, we can create new patterns that help reshape the entire system -- combining the innovation of the business world, the passion and humanity of the nonprofit world, and the inclusive, networked culture of the digital world to generate transformative change."
Read the complete transcript.