The roots of philanthropic giving are deep

A letter to editor by me appeared last week in the WSJ. It is pasted below:
Anthony Paletta’s commentary on the left-leaning politicization of philanthropy and the focus on influencing policy is astute, but his observations do not cast light on something new but describe a staple feature of Council on Foundation meetings. Thankfully, there are many private foundations that apolitically adhere to the great traditions of American philanthropic giving, traditions that date back to the founding of this country.

Foundations provide an important source of a decentralized and diverse decision-making and, when effective, philanthropic giving can provide the much-needed funding required to question dogma, challenge common-wisdom assumptions and test alternative models. Without philanthropy, the primary source of such funds would not exist. Philanthropy is most successful when it remains an independent “third sector” and recognizes that it is neither business nor government. Philanthropy has an important role in advancing the common good by providing social venture capital for the purposes of knowledge acquisition and its responsible application. In many spheres such as science, education, global health and social services, it does just that for the benefit of many.

Susan M. Fitzpatrick,

James S. McDonnell Foundation

St. Louis