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The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth is Changing the World Paperback – September 8, 2009


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The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth is Changing the World + Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy + Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; Reprint edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586487027
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586487027
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his first book, law professor and philanthropist Fleishman has created a thoughtful, engrossing, comprehensive guide to the origins, initiatives, successes and failures among the largely unsung 68,000 private foundations in America, which together grant over 32.2 billion tax-exempt dollars per year. Tracing the history of this distinctly American institution, Fleishman considers the philanthropy of such financial titans as Andrew Carnegie, George Soros, Warren Buffett, Michael Milken and Bill Gates. Fleishman's view of the foundation is distinctly favorable: foundations serve a vital social function by providing seed funding to innovative initiatives, having led to such benefits as the 911 emergency response system, the development of the Pap smear, the alleviation of poverty in Bangladesh and the establishment of Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon Universities. Fleishman doe not hestitate, however, to criticize foundations for arrogance, poor planning, unresponsiveness, waste and irresponsibility, using 12 case studies-Rockefeller's Population Council and the Children's Television Workshop among them-to set the stage for "Some Not So Modest Proposals," most of which involve increasing transparency and accountability. Fleishman's efforts prove an illuminating guide to a little-examined aspect of the American tradition.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Any budding philanthropist who aspires to make a better world...should read Joel Fleishman's wise book." -- The Economist, January 27, 2007

"In `The Foundation'...Joel L. Fleishman penetrates this opaque culture." -- Bloomberg.com

"Passionately and persuasively, Fleishman makes the case for greater accountability." -- Baltimore Sun, January 7, 2007

"Satloff lifts a veil on the Holocaust in North Africa." -- Toronto Globe and Mail, January 6, 2007

"This book has an important role to play by educating the public and encouraging foundations to become more accountable" -- San Francisco Chronicle, January 7, 2007

"a thoughtful, scholarly, complete discussion... Must-read for staff and board members of non-profits and for anyone running for public office." -- Fayetteville Observer, May 13, 2007

"a warm, loving tribute to the large foundations, their donors, and their chief executives." -- The Nonprofit Quarterly, Spring 2007

"he has been engaged in a lifelong `lover's quarrel' with foundations. His book is a form of tough love." -- The Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2007 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Joel L. Fleishman is professor of law and public policy at Duke University and the author of The Foundation. He has served as president of the Atlantic Philanthropic Service Company, the U.S. program staff of Atlantic Philanthropies.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Very interesting book.
Papa Salif Sow
This book gives an excellent analysis of the foundation world from an optimistic perspective combined with a healthy amount of constructive criticism.
James Fruchterman
In this book Mr. Fleishman looks at Foundations (a number of which he has been associated as employee, trustee or some other capacity).
John Matlock

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By D. Stuart on February 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Joel Fleishman's book lays an excellent bedrock of history underneath its discussion of philanthropy as a great element of American tradition. We live in days of some staggering examples - from Warren Buffet's living bequest of billions, to the fine work of Bill and Melinda Gates - and many others. But rather than see this as some product of the new millennium - Fleishman shows how the new avatars of corporate generosity are following a fine tradition. More than this, the author shows that certain gifting strategies have been leveraged for huge social benefit. For those who are thinking - at whatever scale - of giving to support a cause, this book sets out the strategies that have produced most benefit. This is an excellent, thoughtful piece of work on a topic that currently has wide currency. Well worth reading.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on March 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Foundations are a subset of Non-Profit organizations that have become surprisingly big busines in the United States. Somewhere around 1/7th of the business in the country is conducted by these organizations. Somewhere around 1/9th of the workforce is employed by one. They have become an integral part of the American economy.

In this book Mr. Fleishman looks at Foundations (a number of which he has been associated as employee, trustee or some other capacity). He examines what makes a foundation successful, and how some have failed. He offers insight and advice on how to make a foundation more successful, and at the same time how foundations should have an obligation to become more accountable since they received special tax considerations from the Government. He suggests that this accountability should be done by the foundations voluntarily. However, Mr. Fleishman is an attorney and believes that if voluntary response is not forthcoming then new legal requirements should be placed upon them to require more openness.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very helpful book, indeed, a unique book. Here are some of the notes I took. As one of 24 co-founders of a new 501c3, the Earth Intelligence Network, created to provide decision support to foundations, the United Nations, NGOs, and others seeking to address the ten high-level threats to Humanity, I could not have found a more relevant work.

A few notes:

* Foundations are the dynamo of social change, with three roles varying from foundation to foundation: as driver, as partner, or as catalyst.
* The author is very critical of the general state of mismanagement and in some cases, lack of clear ethical guidelines or stated values, and says the field must do better.
* In his view, and his case studies bear this out, foundations are an enormous force for good, but they are unregulated, unaccountable, and if they are to retain the tax breaks and the trust of the people, they must change their process, their governance, and their attitude--this will, in the author's words, strengthen the social contract within which they are given so much leeway.
* He states that foundations *need* a decision-making process (music to my ears) and also a progress-checking system.
* He clearly communicates the willy-nilly state of many foundation programs, their lack of boundaries and focus, and hence their relative lack of impact. He states that many underperform, are insulated, and are arrogant.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Fruchterman on November 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm a high tech entrepreneur turned social entrepreneur. This book gives an excellent analysis of the foundation world from an optimistic perspective combined with a healthy amount of constructive criticism.

Something that makes this book standout are the wealth of real world examples of both success and failure. In addition to those in the book, there's a companion piece with 100 case studies available for free download as well as purchasable as a paperback book.

What I enjoyed very much was meaty discussion of key aspects of the foundation structure. Fleishman's style is direct and clear: his points are made well and are backed up with real examples. One of the best books I've read about the social sector!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Schweizer VINE VOICE on July 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a little mentioned corner of the grand American experiment. Long ignored by historians, the origins of American foundations is a worthy subject of study. American history textbooks devote much space to the so-called Gilded Age, making note of the contributions made by journalists in exposing the injustices of corporations such as Standard Oil, but no mention is made of the extraordinary contributions these founding fathers of corporate and private giving have made on the American landscape. Just think of the extraordinary universities founding at the turn-of-the century. Fleishman's focus tends toward more recent exemplars but the spirit and the enormity of their contributions to our lives is no less worthy of attention.
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