Philanthropy’s Bermuda Triangle

A publication from Inflection Points

Inflection Points asked Stephen Viederman, retired president of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation and presently a member of the finance committee of the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, for his views on the power of philanthropic foundations to utilize their investment funds for change. Philanthropic foundations are like old-fashioned slot machines. They have one arm and are known for their occasional payout. Their finance committees manage their endowments like investment bankers. Their portfolios give no hint that they are institutions whose purpose is the public benefit. Although it is twenty years since the term “mission-related investing” found its way into the lexicon of philanthropy, the practice is limited. There is a chasm between mission – grantmaking – and investment. The logic of a synergy between the two has yet to take hold.

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