Gates Grant to Help Rockefeller Philanthropy Help New Grantors


This is a fine story — and the intentions behind this grant are good — but a question still remains: Is it axiomatic, is it beyond debate, that one foundation granting $3.5 million to help Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors help “emerging donors” to determine their giving is the absolutely best use of that money?

Is it not at least theoretically possible that $3.5 million would be equally well spent on direct giving to grantees?

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Not that helping “emerging donors” develop strategies for “effective giving” is an unworthy goal — indeed, it is likely the most efficient way to impart best practices in lean administrative costs and minimal philanthropic waste. At a time of severe economic anxiety, however, one does wonder precisely why $3.5 million is the magic figure here. Could the same objective be met with $2.5 million? Or $1.5 million? What, exactly, is this money paying for?

Again, this is not to disparage the participants — only the question, and hopefully learn more about, the process.

The following is the press release announcing the grant at hand:

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Awarded $3.7 Million Gates Foundation Grant
to Support and Grow Effective Philanthropy

In an effort to scale up effective philanthropy to new levels of impact, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors is embarking on a campaign that will arm emerging donors with the knowledge to make thoughtful giving plans. The program is being made possible by a $3.7 million dollar grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Interest in highly effective philanthropy has never been higher, but many would-be donors struggle to find the ‘on ramp’ for serious giving programs,” said Melissa A. Berman, President and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. “This generous grant from the Gates Foundation will enable us to help donors develop their own roadmaps for effective giving. We believe the result will be a new culture of great giving – a virtuous cycle in which resources and knowledge support engaged giving and social impact, in turn inspiring even more major wealth holders to embark on effective giving programs.”

The new program will span three years and includes development of more than two dozen guides that will constitute a core “curriculum” of the key issues donors face as they consider a serious philanthropic program, such as:

— giving motivations and interest areas;
— approaches and strategies;
— appropriate vehicles;
— family roles and personal involvement;
— efficient operations; and
— assessment of impact.

The donor guides will include real-life case studies and examples for context and inspiration. As with all resources developed over the course of the program, the guides will be available for download free of charge through a new “Donor Resources” section of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ web site ( The site will also be home to profiles of donors, philanthropic families and successful programs, and an array of supporting documents, resources and relevant links.

As part of its dissemination efforts, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors will ensure that existing organizations in the philanthropy field, from large national associations to local groups of grantmakers, as well other advisors to wealth holders, have complete access to the guides for their members.

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ senior executives and its Board of Directors will be integral to donor outreach efforts. This will include increased participation in speaking and writing engagements and hosting or collaborating on issue-specific donor briefings.

“Giving away money can be a relatively simple process; however, giving it effectively is an entirely different matter,” said Kevin P. A. Broderick, chairman of the board of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. “Helping donors create thoughtful, effective philanthropy is our sole mission,” he added, “and we are grateful to Gates Foundation for providing core resources toward that goal.”

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors is a nonprofit organization that currently advises on and manages more than $200 million in annual giving by individuals, families, corporations, and major foundations. Headquartered in New York City with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, it traces its antecedents to John D. Rockefeller, Sr., who in 1891 began to professionally manage his philanthropy “as if it were a business.” With thoughtful and effective philanthropy as its only mission, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors has grown into one of the world’s largest and best known philanthropic service organizations and as a whole has facilitated more than $3 billion in grantmaking to nearly 70 countries. RPA’s diverse staff of 38 is led by experienced grantmakers with significant depth of knowledge across multiple issue areas.