On Developing Closer Relationships with Government

From Gara LaMarche, Atlantic Philanthropies: “Philanthropy has too often in the last several decades kept an arm’s length relationship with government and public policy. That has to change if we are to have any hope of making real progress on many of the leading challenges of our time.”

  • I agree, with the caveat that we need to be sure that we aren’t simply carrying the water for government or being used to fund programs and activities that the government should do.
  • For philanthropic investments to have any impact on government action, we need to understand in pretty deep ways the potential range of actions government can take and the constraints within which it operates.
  • I think philanthropy has kept an arm’s length from government because of the interpretation of the laws governing advocacy. There is too little clarity about what actions are acceptable, so foundations steer clear.
  • Philanthropy has never kept a true arm’s length relationship. Conservative foundations and investors were intertwined in the social and political life during relevant administrations, and likewise the more liberal and progressive foundations and investors.

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This takeaway was derived from Working with Government.