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Section 5: Resource 1

Considering the Question of Perpetuity

Although there is some debate within philanthropy about the question of perpetuity, in the end no single correct approach is right for all donors. The decision to create a foundation for the ages or for the moment is a highly individual choice. It should be guided by the philanthropic goals laid out by donors and their families.

This section provides additional reading and guidance on considering the question of perpetuity and identifying a strategic lifespan for your family's foundation. For a wide variety of additional resources on this topic, current NCFP Friends are invited to login to NCFP's Family Philanthropy Online Knowledge Center.

NOTE: The National Center for Family Philanthropy is grateful for the support of the Quixote Foundation, which embraced a "spending up" philosophy during its 20 years of formal existence. Among Quixote's final grants was a contribution to NCFP to ensure our ability to help advise donors and families on a strategic lifespan that meets their goals and objectives.

 

Read (5 minutes)
Why the Choice to Spend Down is Good for Philanthropy As a new generation of family philanthropists take over — and families contemplate just how long forever actually lasts and reflect on the present needs in their communities — a growing number are deciding that they would rather grant their assets during a set period of time than manage their endowments in perpetuity.
Read (20 minutes)
Alternatives to Perpetuity: A Conversation Every Foundation Should Have 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.
Tune-in (5 minutes)
Quixote Foundation: The First 5 Billion Years For a moment five billion years ago, there was such a thing as a "free lunch.” Find out how Quixote Foundation got here from there, and why we’re blowin' up! quixotefoundation.org
Tune-in (5 minutes)
Taking Risks: Why Jeff and Tricia Raikes are Sunsetting the Raikes Foundation Like the Gateses, Jeff and Tricia Raikes are giving all their money away while they are alive. Why? “Catalytic philanthropy implies taking risks,” says Jeff. Future trustees may not feel empowered to take the risks the Raikeses feel are necessary.
Tune-in (5 minutes)
Spending down the Tosa Foundation: The Morgridges plan to give it all away Tashia & John Morgridge expect their foundation to be approaching a zero balance when they die. What hasn’t been spent will survive in the foundations of their two children.
Read (5 minutes)
To Spend Out, or Not To Spend Out? What Every Foundation Should Ask Itself An analysis of the perspectives and value of the debate of whether foundations should spend out.
Read (20 minutes)
Considering the Question of Perpetuity The decision to create a foundation for the ages or for the moment is a highly individual choice. It should be guided by the philanthropic goals laid out by donors and their families.
Read (30 minutes)
Perpetuity or Limited Lifespan: How Do Family Foundations Decide? This report presents findings on family foundations' choices to spend down or to exist in perpetuity and the factors involved, including foundation assets, age, and presence of a living founder.
Read (45 minutes)
Limited Life Foundations: Motivations, Experiences, and Strategies This report explores both personal and strategic reasons for "sunsetting" as well as the positive and negative effects of limited life on the foundation.
Read (45 minutes)
Setting a Time Horizon: How Long Should Your Foundation or Giving Program Last? Part of the Philanthropy Roadmap series, this guide discusses some of the main ways to evaluate and set a time horizon for giving.
Read (30 minutes)
List of Time Limited Foundations Browse this list of foundations compiled by the Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civil Society that have spent down or who are known to be actively spending down.