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A Groundbreaking Examination of How Powerful Foundations Fail: Martin Morse Wooster's Great Philanthropic Mistakes

Hudson Institute

WASHINGTON —  Esteemed author Martin Morse Wooster presents eight case studies in his new edition of Great Philanthropic Mistakes to uncover how America’s most powerful foundations despite having the very best of intentions go awry. In a revised and expanded second edition of his 2006 bestseller, Wooster places special focus on the work of the Ford Foundation in the 1950s and 1960s. Great Philanthropic Mistakes warns against the institutional temptation of being overly confident.

In each of the case studies, foundations such as Rockefeller, Lasker, and MacArthur thought that, given enough resources and time, they could prevent overpopulation, cure cancer, and find the next Michelangelo. Wooster shows how they have failed in their lofty missions, but at the same time he provides valuable lessons for future philanthropists.

Great Philanthropic Mistakes is a must read for anyone, philanthropist or not, with a desire to change the world. It is a useful reminder that an abundance of resources is not always the key to success. As Wooster notes, “Humble foundations realize they should give not because they wish to gain power and privilegebut because generosity is a virtue and the right way to live.”

About the Author

Martin Morse Wooster is a senior fellow at the Capital Research Center and a contributing editor of Philanthropy. He is the author of The Great Philanthropists and the Problem of ‘Donor Intent’; Should Foundations Live Forever?; The Foundation Builders, Return to Charity?; and By Their Bootstraps. He has been Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, an associate editor of the Wilson Quarterly, Washington editor of Reason. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, Elle, Spin, Washingtonian, Esquire, The American Spectator, Crisis, and Policy Review.


Hudson Institute is a nonpartisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom.

CONTACT: Kristen McIntyre, 202-974-2424,, or James Bologna, 202-974-6456,

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