Ending Well: Exits and Spend Down

About this collection: The resources shared in this collection contain information and tools developed through the experience of multiple philanthropies involved in exits – including the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

While foundation exits and spend downs are gaining interest in philanthropy, they have fueled relatively little research to date. Being able to effectively end an initiative, prepare grantees for continued success, and sustain results is vitally important to funder investments. The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation is preparing to sunset in 2020. Along the way, it intends to help increase knowledge about this topic – shining a light on the reasons why some foundations choose to exit, and increasing awareness of practices that help funders conclude program work in a manner that serves their objectives as well as those of grantees.

The resources shared in this collection contain information and tools developed through the experience of multiple philanthropies involved in exits—including the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

For additional perspectives and case studies from NCFP and others, see the content collection, Spending Up: Considering Your Strategic Lifespan.

Featured Resources

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Article
This article, from a special edition of The Foundation Review on exit strategies, helps grantmakers consider the implications and potential results of exits, as well as gain practical insight on the question of exiting responsibly.

Exit Strategies: The Foundation Review

Article
To examine an array of critical topics for those considering or conducting exits, The Foundation Review devoted an issue to the subject. This peer-reviewed journal includes a collection of articles that can inform effective program conclusions.

210 Goodbyes: Lessons From Ending Grantee Relationships

Article
Consultant Ruth Norris offers insights and practical details gleaned from her experience with more than 210 exits. This essay combines her reflections with analysis of data from grantee reports and conversations with grantees and colleague funders.
Morning on the beach. Magical sunrise over sea

A Date Certain: Lessons from Limited Life Foundations

Report
To learn more about limited life foundations’ decisions to spend down — and the ways in which they grapple with several important issues along their journey to pursuing their goals in a finite period of time — the Center for Effective Philanthropy conducted in-depth interviews with leaders of 11 limited life foundations. Resulting …

What Does It Take to Spend Down Successfully?

Report
Responding to research indicating that growing numbers of foundations opt for a spend-down strategy, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conducted a review of literature and spoke with grantmakers to capture emerging lessons. This publication includes five principles generated from that study.

Spending down: Laurie Dachs answers questions for family philanthropies

Article
Courtesy of Jonathan Petersson from Pexels In October 2020, Nick Tedesco, president and CEO of the National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP), talked with Lauren B. (Laurie) Dachs, president and vice chair of the board at the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, about spending down all assets. The Foundation was founded …

Sooner Rather Than Later, Prologue: 1957-2008

Report
In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California’s critical challenges “sooner rather than later.” The spend-down horizon …

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 1: 2009-2013

Article
In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California’s critical challenges “sooner rather than later.” The spend-down horizon …

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 2: 2014-2017

Article
In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California’s critical challenges “sooner rather than later.” The spend-down horizon …

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 3: 2018-2020

Article
In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California’s critical challenges “sooner rather than later.” The spend-down horizon …