Foundations play an essential part in the philanthropic activity that defines so much of American life. No other nation provides its foundations with so much autonomy and freedom of action as does the United States. Liberated both from the daily discipline of the market and from direct control by government, American foundations understandably attract great attention. As David Hammack and Helmut Anheier note in this volume, "Americans have criticized foundations for... their alleged conservatism, liberalism, elitism, radicalism, devotion to religious tradition, hostility to religion--in short, for commitments to causes whose significance can be measured, in part, by the controversies they provoke. Americans have also criticized foundations for ineffectiveness and even foolishness." Their size alone conveys some sense of the significance of American foundations, whose assets amounted to over $530 billion in 2008 despite a dramatic decline of almost 22 percent in the previous year. And in 2008 foundation grants totaled over $45 billion. But what roles have foundations actually played over time, and what distinctive roles do they fill today? How have they shaped American society, how much difference do they make? What roles are foundations likely to play in the future? This comprehensive volume, the product of a three-year project supported by the Aspen Institute's program on the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy, provides the most thorough effort ever to assess the impact and significance of the nation's large foundations. In it, leading researchers explore how foundations have shaped--or failed to shape--each of the key fields of foundation work. American Foundations takes the reader on a wide-ranging tour, evaluating foundation efforts in education, scientific and medical research, health care, social welfare, international relations, arts and culture, religion, and social change.
The essays in this book reflect pioneering efforts to study the global movement of ideas and institutions. They deal with topics of significant contemporary importance: initiatives to address the AIDS epidemic in East Africa; to protect the peoples and ecosystems of the Amazon; to advance the "truth and reconciliation" process in South Africa and in other areas of great conflict; to promote "civil society" in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; to advocate for environmental protection in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan; and to spread Rotary Clubs and encourage "social entrepreneurship" throughout the world. These essays highlight a wide range of research, paying close attention to the realities of particular situations and to current thinking about general processes.
America's grantmaking foundations have grown rapidly over the course of recent decades, even in the face of financial and economic crises. Foundations have a great deal of freedom, enjoy widespread legitimacy, and wield considerable influence. In this book, David Hammack and Helmut Anheier follow up their edited volume, American Foundations, with a comprehensive historical account of what American foundations have done with that independence and power. While philanthropic foundations play important roles in other parts of the world, the U.S. sector stands out as exceptional. Nowhere else are they so numerous, prominent, or autonomous. What have been the main contributions of philanthropic foundations to American society? And what might the future hold for them? A Versatile American Institution considers foundations in a new way. Previous accounts typically focused narrowly on their organization, donors, and leaders, and their intentions--but not on the outcome of philanthropy. Rather than looking at foundations in a vacuum, Hammack and Anheier consider their roles and contributions in the context of their times and their economic and political circumstances.