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February 16, 2008

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Sean Stannard-Stockton

Keep in mind that my firm serves major donors, while community foundations' primary mission is to serve the communities where they reside. They do that by serving donors in their community, but at the end of the day they must be guided by what is best for the community. That is a critical role. I'm a big supporter of community foundations. While I might be able to hire away their staff, I can not replace them.

phil

Yes, advisors represent donors not the community, the charity, or the cause. That is a mission critical point. Does the community foundation speak for the community? I hope so. That would be a defining difference. As asset gatherers, though, who have the interest of the community at heart, the community foundation does serve as "mixing bowl," or "broker" in the broadest sense, of representing or being loyal to three elements: 1) donor 2) community foundation itself with its assets under management 3) the needs of those in the community. To make this mix work, presumably, the community foundation is characterized by nobility of mission, stewardship, ideals, and enthusiasm for philanthropy and civil society. That balance, that civic purpose, seems key. The for-profits can talk a good game around civic purpose, and we may have our hearts in it, but at the end of the day we are in business representing the "supply side" of the equation, and with our own business concerns at heart as well (fees, commissions, assets under management). We may care about the recipients of grants, but we do not represent them or serve as advocates for them. Unless community foundations do excell at this "honest broker," "steward," "idealist," role, and have authentic relations with donors around ideals, and community impact, I am afraid they will find that their market share stagnates as that of forprofit surrogates increases.

Thank you, Sean, for clariying. I hope community foundation people will "take the bait" of my polemics and weigh in as well.

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