Leveraging Philanthropy and Collaboration

The Lodestar Foundation seeks to expand the overall capacity of the social sector by promoting philanthropy, volunteering, public service, nonprofit collaboration and other business practices.

Giving While Living

One specific way in which happiness and philanthropy are linked may relate to limiting the life of a foundation. Many funders are advancing this proposition persuasively and directing their foundations to accelerate their grantmaking, thereby spending down their foundation funds and maximizing their impact in the near-term. We encourage you to contact us if you are aware of any other articles that should be referenced on this web page.


Edna McConnell Clark Foundation to Sunset

Philanthropy News Digest, December 14, 2016.  The trustees of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in New York City have announced plans to sunset the foundation over the next decade.

Lessons From a Sunsetting Fund

The Power of Philanthropy Partnerships, Fall 2015.  Planning to close our doors in December -- thoughtfully, and with consideration for our partners and coworkers -- has meant breaking new ground.

Philanthropic CEO explains notion of ‘giving while living’

USC News, April 6, 2015. The USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy hosted Chris Oechsli, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, on March 26 to discuss the foundation’s plans to accelerate its impact as the life of the foundation comes to an end. 

A Good Ending

Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2014. This article written by Christopher G. Oechsli, the CEO of Atlantic Philanthropies, and David La Piana, an advisor to Atlantic Philanthropies, details best practices for winding down a foundation’s assets and grantmaking.

Making a Graceful Exit

Stanford Social Innovation Review, August 20, 2014 Consultant David La Piana makes recommendations in this article on ways foundations can close down their grantmaking responsibly so that their grantees are able to remain financially healthy once their funding is discontinued.

Six Pathways to Enduring Results: Lessons from Spend-Down Foundations

Philanthropy Magazine, Fall 2013. In this paper, the Bridgespan Group’s Amy Markham and Susan Wolf Ditkoff explore why an increasing number of philanthropists are choosing to sunset their foundations. The authors then chart six pathways that these foundations are using to magnify their influence while spending down their assets.

Making Change by Spending Down

GrantCraft, 2013. This blog series hosted by GrantCraft in partnership with The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies focuses on how foundations decide to spend down their endowments and the critical issues that surface during the process. The posts seek to serve as a resource to aid philanthropists in the reflective process about spend down decision-making.

When Foundations' Days Are Numbered: Philanthropies Prepare Groups for End as They Spend Down

The Jewish Daily Forward, November 17, 2012. Profiling several foundations that have decided to “spend down" their assets rather than preserving them, this article explores the various reasons philanthropists choose to accelerate their grantmaking.

Turning Passion into Action: Giving While Living

Atlantic Reports, 2010. This publication, which shares the stories of philanthropists who have opted to give generously during their lifetimes, describes the trend of “Giving While Living” and offers tips and resources for people interested in pursuing this philanthropic philosophy.

Giving While Living: The Beldon Fund Spend-Out Story

The Beldon Fund, 2009. In this booklet, the Beldon Fund shares its reasons for deciding to spend down its $100 million endowment and provides a comprehensive look at how it spent out its assets while simultaneously accomplishing an ambitious mission. Beldon Fund founder and chair, John Hunting, explained that the booklet was written “to share with others what we learned from our spend-out experience – the challenges we grappled with, the steps we took to address them, and the strategies that worked well for us.”

Limited Life Foundations: Motivations, Experiences & Strategies

Urban Institutes, 2009. Francie Ostrower, an Urban Institute associate scholar, conducted a research study of 850 foundations in 2007 and 2008 to compare attitudes and practices of limited life and perpetual foundations. Ostrower then conducted follow up interviews with a set of the limited life foundations to probe the motivations, experiences and strategies associated with this strategy of grantmaking.

Time is of the Essence: Foundations and the Policies of Limited Life and Endowment Spend-Down

The Aspen Institute, October, 28, 2009. Combining a detailed analysis of two historic foundations with case studies of selected contemporary foundations that have decided to spend down their assets, this publication by the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation provides philanthropic models worth consideration for donors and foundations planning their policies and goals of giving.

How Long Should Gifts Just Grow?

The New York Times, November 12, 2007. As Warren Buffett and other lead the charge to spend more money now to tackle problems plaguing society, a debate has begun into the ethics of growing endowments rather using assets for current needs.

The Insider's Guide to Spend Down: Switching off the Lights at the Olin Foundation

Philanthropy Magazine, March/April 2002. James Piereson, executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation, shares the lessons learned by the Olin Foundation as it sought not just to spend down its assets but to spend them down wisely.

Online Resources

Project on Spend-Down at the AVI CHAI Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies

Funded by grants from the Atlantic Philanthropies and the AVI CHAI Foundation, professors at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society are documenting the experiences of Atlantic Philanthropies and the AVI CHAI Foundation as they go through the process of spending down their endowments. In addition to annual reports on the foundations progress, this site has a library of online resources relating to foundation spend down and a list of “Spend-Down Foundations.”

Spend Down vs. Perpetuity Resources

The Philanthropy Roundtable’s Donor Intent Resource Library operates this site which contains discussion, debate and case studies examining the philosophies of spending down one’s assets versus giving in perpetuity through the use of endowments.