What Is the Case for Foundations Living in Perpetuity?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 -
8:45am to 11:00am EDT
Philanthropy New York, 4th Floor, 79 Fifth Avenue, NYC
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In recent years, the number of foundations going the spend-down route has increased notably. Advocates for setting time limits on foundations have been especially vocal and prolific in their writing and public speaking. Which got us wondering: Is there a case to be made for foundations living in perpetuity?

Even though setting up a foundation in perpetuity is the default and most foundation founders make that choice, there is very little in the way of literature that gives donors a clear set of compelling arguments for permanently dedicating substantial resources to causes they support.

Advocates for time-limiting foundations say that mission-drift and the urgent needs of our age make a self-evident case for sun-setting.  But given the long arc of change and a track record of maintaining faith with donor intent among foundations that have been working toward social change for a century, can foundations in-perpetuity articulate a compelling response to advocates of spending down?


  • How the early history of individual foundations relate to their contemporary grantmaking and how giving has evolved over time but remained true to donor intent
  • How foundations are using assets dedicated to social improvement in creative ways, pursuing more than just grantmaking to affect change
  • Running the numbers: How continuous giving over decades compounds resources dedicated to social change

This program is "Partially Open."