Strategic Lifespan and Limited Life Foundations

About this collection: This Content Collection is aimed at new donors considering what strategic lifespan will best work for their foundation, as well as existing foundations that have already set a closing date, or any family or board contemplating the question.

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Essential resources for those considering the lifespan of their organization.

Why the Raikes Foundation is Not a Perpetual Foundation

People often ask me what we focus on at the Raikes Foundation (empowering young people to transform their lives) and how we do it (investing in capable people addressing under-resourced challenges where our dollars can have an outsized impact on the systems that serve youth.) 

Spending down: Laurie Dachs answers questions for family philanthropies

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 in 1957; in 2009 it…

Strategic Time Horizons in Philanthropy

Strategic time horizons are increasingly becoming the subject of thoughtful discussions within philanthropic organizations, causing a shift away from in-perpetuity models as the default approach.

Dig Deeper

For those looking to learn more on the topic of strategic lifespan.

Balancing Purpose, Payout, and Permanence

How much should we spend? This is an essential question for foundations, and one of the most complex, particularly in moments of change or turmoil. This Strategy Guide invites you to reflect more deeply on how your foundation chooses to balance four factors—purpose, conditions and trends, time horizons, and assets…

Limited Life Foundations: Lessons in Managing Staff Transitions

Blog Post
As the CEO of a family foundation with a defined end date, I am frequently asked how we retain and motivate staff when everyone on the team knows their job will end in the not-too-distant future. As a leader, this is a tremendously interesting situation to manage. It takes careful…

210 Goodbyes: Lessons From Ending Grantee Relationships

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.

Alternatives to Perpetuity: A Conversation Every Foundation Should Have

Passages Issue Briefs
This Passages is aimed at new donors considering a limited lifespan for their foundation, existing foundations that have already set a closing date, or any family contemplating the question of perpetuity. Author Deanne Stone gives background on the perpetuity vs. spending down debate and discusses the motivations for considering an…

Case Studies

Lessons from organizations that have sunsetted.

April 14, 2016

Coming to a close: Lessons from two spend down family foundations

If your foundation decided to spend down and cease operations in a defined period of time, what might the process look like? It’s a question more family foundation boards are facing, as entrepreneurs pursue philanthropy the way they conducted business – with an exit plan in mind. This webinar will feature…
October 21, 2021

Limited Life Foundations: Lessons from CEOs

Philanthropic purpose, impact, and perpetuity are on the minds of giving families more than ever before. Many are reconsidering the lifespan of their giving effort with a fresh lens as community needs increase and the sector evolves. Yet the opportunities of limited lifespan are often not clear or not fully…
Morning on the beach. Magical sunrise over sea

A Date Certain: Lessons from Limited Life Foundations

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…

The Strategic Lifespan Peer Network

Meet colleagues in this confidential, safe space while discussing tactics, strategies, and timely questions about limited lifespan foundations.

Learn more and join the network.

Statements on Sunsetting

A growing number of donors and foundation boards are sharing statements clarifying their reasons and goals for spending down. Here are a few of our favorites:

The Compton Foundation: We’re giving all our money away by 2025

Rogers Family Foundation: Sunsetting Education Grantmaking

The Brainerd Foundation Will Sunset in 2020

Stupski Foundation: Why Spend Down? Because Change Can’t Wait

Edna McConnell Clark Foundation: EMCF’s Next Chapter