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Why the Big Five Philanthropy Announcement is a Big Deal

In September 2019, the Chronicle of Philanthropy covered an important announcement from the CEOs of the big five philanthropies - Patrick Gaspard of the Open Society Foundations, Julia Stasch former president of the MacArthur Foundation, Larry Kramer of Hewlett Foundation, Carol Larson of Packard Foundation, and Darren Walker of Ford Foundation. These foundations agreed to commit to work together to provide more unrestricted grant funds for nonprofit organizations. In many organizations garnering general support funding for operations is the biggest challenge. Many donors like to restrict their dollars to key projects instead of supporting the overall organization.

Maria Di Mento of the Chronicle of Philanthropy cites a 2017 Bridgespan analysis, which evaluated 274 nonprofits with two or more from the largest U.S. foundations. Di Mento notes that "42 percent had less than three months’ worth of cash on hand." The issue of overhead and operating costs can be a limiting factor for growth and impact. This foundation leadership commitment matters.

Supporting nonprofits through general support will help nonprofits modernize and attract top talent to tackle to the considerable social and environmental issues we face.

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Heather White is a conservation policy and green living expert. She is the former President & CEO of Yellowstone Forever and former Executive Director of EWG. She lives in Bozeman, Montana.


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