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Giving Better Giving Smarter: 6 Years Later

Program and Panelists

Welcome by William Schambra, Hudson Institute
Introduction by Reed Coleman, The Bradley Foundation
Remarks by Lamar Alexander, U.S. Senator (R-TN)

Panel Discussion


Event Summary

Six years after the National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal released its report Giving Better, Giving Smarter, the Bradley Center hosted the Commission’s chairman, Lamar Alexander, U.S. Senator (R-TN), and four of its members, including Reed Coleman (vice chairman) and Bruno Manno (executive director), to revisit questions addressed by the Commission’s report: How fares American civil society today? Is philanthropy playing a more effective role in promoting civic renewal? As the organization that adopted part of the National Commission’s name as well as its mission, this was a fitting first public event for the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal.

Note: A PDF copy of the 1997 report Giving Better, Giving Smarter can be found online by clicking here.

Panel Presentations

In his remarks, Senator Alexander described several recent legislative initiatives that embodied and embody the ideas of the Commission, including the CARE Act and a bill creating summer academies in civics education to “inspire new generations to undertake their civic responsibilities” in the hopes of producing “…civic entrepreneurs, the way the Bradley Foundation hoped in 1996.” Senator Alexander extolled those civic entrepreneurs identified in Giving Better, Giving Smarter – people who “didn’t depend on Washington; didn’t really depend on government; didn’t spend their time in abstract thinking and actually got things done helping people.” In light of President George W. Bush’s interest in directing more attention and support to grassroots, faith-based groups, the discussion turned to the question of whether charitable giving should devote more of its resources to such efforts—and if so, how might that be promoted? Senator Alexander pointed out that on a local level, faith-based organizations and government already work together “naturally” and “very easily.”

Following the Senator’s remarks, Commission member Sister Jennie Lechtenberg of PUENTE Learning Center in Los Angeles asked that foundations continue to hold charities accountable and help them to spend money wisely. However, she identified several foundation practices that she finds “a challenge” to nonprofits – cumbersome proposal requirements, forced collaboration, unwillingness to provide seed money and follow through with multi-year funding, and imposition upon the programs they fund. From the foundation perspective, Commission executive director Bruno Manno spoke of his foundation’s use of evaluation – and his assessment of evaluation’s limits. “As much as it is important to think about issues of effectiveness and try to measure results, when push comes to shove, maybe evaluation is not as important as we …think it might be.” And Checker Finn of the Fordham Foundation made the point that a theory of change can be useful, even necessary for foundation grantmaking – but that foundations often make six errors in practice: (1) reliance upon habit, (2) ill-considered advice, (3) pack mentality, (4) procedures and rules that make it difficult for unconventional grantees, (5) cowardice, and (6) “squishy” evaluation.

The meeting was attended by nearly fifty people from foundations, nonprofits, think tanks, and lobbies.

Further Information

To request further information on this event, the transcript, or the Bradley Center, please contact Hudson Institute at (202) 974-2424 or e-mail Kristen.

Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal aims to explore the usually unexamined intellectual assumptions underlying the grantmaking practices of America’s foundations and provide practical advice and guidance to grantmakers who seek to support smaller, grassroots institutions in the name of civic renewal.

Checker Finn, Panelist

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation

Bruno Manno, Panelist

The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Sister Jennie Lechtenberg, Panelist

PUENTE Learning Center

Reed Coleman, Moderator

The Bradley Foundation

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