We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Legitimacy of Philanthropic Found.

United States and European Perspectives

Kenneth Prewitt, Mattei Dogan, Steven Heydemann, Stefan Toepler

Publication Year: 2006

Though privately controlled, foundations perform essential roles that serve society at large. They spearhead some of the world’s largest and most innovative initiatives in science, health, education, and the arts, fulfilling important needs that could not be addressed adequately in the marketplace or the public sector. Still, many people have little understanding of what foundations do and how they continue to earn public endorsement. The Legitimacy of Philanthropic Foundations provides a thorough examination of why foundations exist and the varied purposes they serve in contemporary democratic societies. The Legitimacy of Philanthropic Foundations looks at foundations in the United States and Europe to examine their relationship to the state, the market, and civil society. Peter Frumkin argues that unlike elected officials, who must often shy away from topics that could spark political opposition, and corporate officers, who must meet bottom-line priorities, foundations can independently tackle sensitive issues of public importance. Kenneth Prewitt argues that foundations embody elements of classical liberalism, such as individual autonomy and limited government interference in private matters and achieve legitimacy by putting private wealth to work for the public good. Others argue that foundations achieve legitimacy by redistributing wealth from the pockets of rich philanthropists to the poor. But Julian Wolpert finds that foundations do not redistribute money directly to the poor as much as many people believe. Instead, many foundations focus their efforts on education, health, and scientific research, making investments that benefit society in the long-term, and focusing on farsighted issues that a myopic electorate would not have patience to permit its government to address. Originating from private fortunes but working for the public good, independently managed but subject to legal prescriptions, philanthropic foundations occupy a unique space somewhere between the public and private sectors. The Legitimacy of Philanthropic Foundations places foundations in a broad social and historical context, improving our understanding of one of society’s most influential—and least understood—organizational forms.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (37.9 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (35.1 KB)
pp. v-vi


pdf iconDownload PDF (43.6 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (35.9 KB)
pp. ix-x

Privately established foundations were pioneered in medieval and early modern Europe. More recently, they have been distinctively prominent in the United States. Although there has been some learning from different experiences, there has been much less comparative research. This book seeks to encourage more mutual engagement between European...

read more

Editor's Note

pdf iconDownload PDF (23.0 KB)
pp. xi-xii

Authors represented in this volume were not presented with a predigested thesis or any definition of legitimacy as this concept is applied in studies of philanthropic foundations. Recognizing that scholarship is at a very early stage in theorizing about the legitimacy of foundations in advanced democracies, the editors turned to comparison...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (23.1 KB)
pp. xiii

This volume brings together selected papers given at an invitational conference on The Legitimacy of Philanthropic Foundations: U.S. and European Perspectives, which took place in Paris, May 26 through 29, 2004. Held at the French Ministry of Scientific Research, UNESCO...

Part I Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (13.7 KB)
pp. 1

read more

Chapter 1 Foundations and the Challenge of Legitimacy in Comparative Perspective

pdf iconDownload PDF (90.4 KB)
pp. 3-26

Who do foundations think they are? Why do they even exist? Why do democratic societies accept, even foster, the presence of “aristocratic institutions” that control large amounts of capital, in perpetuity, with few constraints on how their assets may be used? On what grounds...

read more

Chapter 2 American Foundations: What Justifies Their Unique Privileges and Powers

pdf iconDownload PDF (80.1 KB)
pp. 27-46

Should nations that do not have a modern philanthropic foundation sector bother to establish one? If so, on what grounds? What is it they do or represent that cannot be provided by the government, the market, or the nonprofit sector more generally? To address the principles...

Part II American Perspectives

pdf iconDownload PDF (13.7 KB)
pp. 47

read more

Chapter 3 American Debates on the Legitimacy of Foundations

pdf iconDownload PDF (196.9 KB)
pp. 49-98

Defined as large stocks of wealth controlled by independent, selfperpetuating boards of trustees and devoted to the support through grants of charitable purposes—or to no specific purpose except “the general good”—philanthropic foundations first attracted notice in the United States only at the beginning of the twentieth century. By the time of World War I, such foundations had won attention...

read more

Chapter 4 Accountability and Legitimacy in American Foundation Philanthropy

pdf iconDownload PDF (92.9 KB)
pp. 99-122

A central problem in American philanthropy is whether donors are ever held adequately accountable for their giving. This issue arises in part from the tax deduction that donors receive for their giving, but is also connected to the power donors have to use resources to enact their agendas. Interestingly, the issue is more pressing in...

read more

Chapter 5 Redistributional Effects of America’s Private Foundations

pdf iconDownload PDF (119.9 KB)
pp. 123-149

Grants by America’s 62,000 private foundations, with assets of $477 billion, totaled $30.3 billion in the year 2002 (Foundation Center 2003). Those are substantial numbers, but of themselves do not indicate whether the grants are redistributive and how their distributive targeting compares to government transfers and assistance...

read more

Chapter 6 Foundation Legitimacy at the Community Level in the United States

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.3 KB)
pp. 150-174

Community Foundations occupy a strategic place among U.S. foundations. Although they make grants like other nonoperating foundations, they are classified as public charities rather than private foundations because they raise funds on an ongoing basis from many donors rather than just a few (such as a sponsoring corporation or founding family)....

Part III European Perspectives

pdf iconDownload PDF (13.7 KB)
pp. 175

read more

Chapter 7 Historical Changes in Foundation Functions and Legitimacy in Europe

pdf iconDownload PDF (70.4 KB)
pp. 177-191

Historically, foundations are among the oldest of social institutions, having been with us for nearly 3,000 years. From the Greek and Roman period to the Middle Ages, in the Christian and the Islamic and Jewish traditions, their raison d’être has been to preserve...

read more

Chapter 8 Roles of Foundations in Europe: A Comparison

pdf iconDownload PDF (91.3 KB)
pp. 192-216

From a comparative, European perspective, few types of organizations have received less attention by researchers and policy analysts than foundations. Little is known in a systematic way about the current and future role and policy environment foundations are facing across Europe. Research on foundations has not been as forthcoming...

read more

Chapter 9 Supporting Culture and Higher Education: A German Perspective

pdf iconDownload PDF (81.1 KB)
pp. 217-235

One of the most difficult tasks in analyzing the role of foundations in supporting culture and science in the European context is to describe adequately the nature of a foundation and define what is meant by support—not to mention the futile attempt to define culture...

read more

Chapter 10 Industrial Foundations: Foundation Ownership of Business Companies

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.0 KB)
pp. 236-251

In addition to serving as donors, foundations can own business companies. This was not uncommon in the United States until passage of the 1969 Tax Reform Act, which effectively prevented U.S. foundations from owning more than 20 percent of a corporate entity (Fleishman 2001). But in northern Europe, foundations continue to own...

read more

Chapter 11 Foundation Legitimacy at the Community Level in the United Kingdom

pdf iconDownload PDF (76.6 KB)
pp. 252-270

Community foundations claim to be the fastest-growing form of philanthropy (Walkenhorst 2001), yet in most countries they are also the newest. This raises a number of questions concerning the diffusion of philanthropic innovations, including how novel foundation forms carve out distinctive roles and build legitimacy and trust in their roles...

Part IV Conclusion

pdf iconDownload PDF (13.5 KB)
pp. 271

read more

In Search of Legitimacy: Similarities and Differences Between the Continents

pdf iconDownload PDF (53.1 KB)
pp. 273-282

Legitimacy is a belief, not a legal prescription that can be implemented by a ruler’s decree. Foundations flourish only in democratic regimes, where they are expressions of the civil society. The legitimacy of philanthropic foundations involves the belief that they are the most appropriate...


pdf iconDownload PDF (79.1 KB)
pp. 283-294

E-ISBN-13: 9781610444613
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871546968
Print-ISBN-10: 0871546965

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Charitable uses, trusts, and foundations -- Europe -- Congresses.
  • Charitable uses, trusts, and foundations -- United States -- Congresses.
  • Endowments -- United States -- Congresses.
  • Endowments -- Europe -- Congresses.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access