For the public good? The pursuit of private goals through private foundations

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This paper illuminates the complex relationships between family and philanthropy within organizational grantmaking, in the process challenging the assumption that nonprofit organizations are primarily motivated by the goal of producing some public good. I propose a theoretically-driven typological classification system that analyzes the extent of a foundation’s professional and family involvement to illuminate the organization’s operative goals (Perrow, 1961). Drawing on five years of participant observation at two large private foundations, as well as interviews with over twenty additional family-funded foundations, I present illustrations of four ideal-type foundations: the tax shelter, the legacy, the family unit, and the professional philanthropist. By highlighting the range of goals driving private foundations, and the multiple structures through which they are organized, I question whether the philanthropic sector is becoming uniformly more professional and isomorphic, as has been argued by others, and provide a framework to guide more nuanced future research and tax policy.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14224-14224
Number of pages1
JournalAcademy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2013


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