Are you engaged in sector-agnostic philanthropy?
I just finished reading an interview with Ralph Smith, executive vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that caught my attention from his first sentence: “Foundation philanthropy is increasingly sector agnostic.”
Ralph’s use of the term ‘sector agnostic’ questions the traditional, exclusive partnership between foundations and nonprofits by suggesting that foundations can succeed only if they search for solutions to critical problems wherever they exist. This calls for foundations to invest in a much wider range of partners than they have previously, in the public, private and social sectors.
Now, I’ve heard Ralph Smith talk before so I knew that whatever he had to say would be thought-provoking and get me thinking ‘outside the box.’ I wasn’t disappointed in this interview, with his call for a broader and deeper array of partnerships to solve critical problems. Naturally, one of my first reactions was “What does this mean for nonprofits?” Turns out, I needn’t have worried about this – Ralph indeed recognizes three long-term responsibilities foundations have related to their nonprofit partners: develop a “disciplined social-capital market,” deal with compensation issues of nonprofit leaders (especially those related to retirement security) and strengthen the nonprofit sector’s infrastructure at local, state and national levels.
I’m looking forward to hearing Ralph speak on sector agnostic philanthropy at our annual conference. In the meantime, what do you think? Are you engaged in sector-agnostic partnerships? What have you learned from them?
Claudia Y.W. Herrold
vice president, communications & public policy