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This article is based on: Helmut K. Anheier and Diana Leat, The Ambiguity of Success: On the Performance of Philanthropic Foundations (London and New York: Routledge, 2019).
The growth of philanthropic foundations in numbers and significance raises two immediate questions. First, what makes for success and failure of foundations' projects and activities? Second, what yardsticks or benchmarks are used to measure performance and track goal attainment? This article delves into the complex set of issues that lie behind the performance and wider impact of philanthropy. Specifically, it summarizes philanthropic foundations’ strengths and weaknesses, examines conventional wisdom on foundation “success” and “failure,” illustrates problems faced by foundations with case studies, and outlines the main contours of a proactive governance and management style to address those problems.
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