Practical Guidance

"When Philanthropy Goes Wrong" by Adam Meyerson

In this special Wall Street Journal essay, Adam Meyerson discusses the importance of protecting donor intent and how donors—whether large or small—can take concrete action to safeguard their philanthropic principles.

Protecting Donor Intent: How to Define and Safeguard Your Philanthropic Principles by Jeffrey J. Cain

The Philanthropy Roundtable published this guidebook for successful individuals who want to ensure that their intent is followed within the grantmaking organizations they found. It covers every major practical consideration and highlights the best strategies for securing donor intent. Using real-life examples, topics include deciding on a timeframe, defining a mission, choosing philanthropic vehicles, selecting board members, and instituting safeguards, both internally and externally, that will help reinforce donor intent.

"Why Donors Must Protect Their Philanthropic Principles" by Adam Meyerson

Adam Meyerson highlights the need for Jeff Cain’s Protecting Donor Intent by discussing examples of grantmaking institutions which have strayed from the principles of their initial donors. With this guidebook, The Philanthropy Roundtable hopes to help philanthropists think through the best strategies for carrying out their charitable purposes and core values.

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Case Studies

"Outsmarting Albert Barnes" by James Panero

Albert Barnes knew he was creating something unique in the annals of American art. He also predicted that outsiders would try to alter his project after his death. What he never anticipated was that the very defense he put in place to preserve his collection would eventually contribute to its undoing.


"The Carnegie Corporation Turns 100" by Leslie Lenkowsky

Andrew Carnegie believed that America's political and economic system makes philanthropy possible; he also argued that philanthropy was best when it enabled others to benefit from the nation's opportunities. A century later, would he approve of his largest philanthropic endowment?


"Back to Bill" by Evan Sparks

Within a few years of Bill Daniels' death, his friends knew something was wrong at his foundation. Sparks reports on how the board reined in the Daniels Fund, clarified Daniels' intent, and established protocols to ensure donor intent into the future.


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Spend Down vs. Perpetuity

"The Gospel of Wealth" by Andrew Carnegie

The famous essay contains an impassioned plea to the wealthy to give their money away while they are still able to do so. (Despite tireless efforts, Carnegie himself was not able to spend down his fortune before he died.) Nevertheless, this remains one of the best known and most impassioned arguments for giving while living.


Should Foundations Exist in Perpetuity? by Heather R. Higgins and Michael S. Joyce

Heather R. Higgins argues for foundation sunset laws. Michael S. Joyce counters that under the right conditions, foundations can be trusted to carry out the wishes of their founders.


What Your Money Means: And How to Use It Well by Frank Hanna

A contemporary donor offers his own update of Andrew Carnegie's argument in "The Gospel of Wealth" to give while you live. Read George Weigel's review of the book for Philanthropy.


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Public Policy

How Public is Private Philanthropy? Separating Reality from Myth by Evelyn Brody and John Tyler

This Philanthropy Roundtable monograph rebuts recent theories that threaten donor intent, including the claim that donors' wishes may be set aside if the government decides it doesn't like what has been funded, and the claim that tax exemptions turn private giving into government "subsidies" that may be re-directed as the government sees fit.


"Examining the Role of Foundations in a Free Society" by Carl Schramm

A foundation head argues that fidelity to donor intent helps society by helping foundations be less politicized and more genuinely relevant to changing social conditions.


"You Can't Take It With You" by Charles E. Rounds Jr.

In this review of Ray D. Madoff’s, Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the Dead, an expert on trusts rebuts a prominent argument that America should outlaw perpetual foundations—even though he advises donors that it’s usually unwise to establish a perpetual foundation.


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Protecting Your Legacy

A Wise Giver’s Guide to Honoring and Preserving Donor Intent

Protecting Donor Intent

How to Define and Safeguard Your Philanthropic Principles

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