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Forward-Looking Foundations

Forward-Looking Foundations

Join us next year at the 2017 Foundation Leadership Forum in Naples, Florida.

Last month over 450 foundation board members, chief executives, institution presidents, and others attended AGB’s 20th annual Foundation Leadership Forum at Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, California. While many of our participants were happy to avoid the historic blizzards on the east coast, many of the presenters were actively addressing what may be an historic change in public higher education.

We are living through a seismic shift in the funding of public higher education. For some institutions, revenue from private support now outstrips state support. Foundations, once focused on funding a margin of excellence, have become vital partners in the advancement, advocacy, and entrepreneurial ventures of their affiliated institutions.

A plenary panel led by the chair of the UCLA Foundation explored ways foundation boards are employing entrepreneurial practices to adapt to challenges to public institutions to work much more efficiently and demonstrate outcomes with less state support. One such practice came from the chair of the Metropolitan State University of Denver Foundation. Their board has replaced most committees with "project teams." Drawing members from both the university and foundation boards, these teams focused on advancing specific strategic university initiatives. The project-team approach fostered much closer collaboration between the two boards and helps ensure the foundation’s work is aligned with institutional priorities.

Leaders from the University of Florida and University of California Davis described how they re-sized and repositioned their foundation boards as the premier philanthropic leadership group within a larger volunteer-leadership structure. The repositioning unites a broad range of volunteer boards, including unit advisory groups, regional alumni councils, and campaign committees. In the end, it also allowed strategic initiatives to take priority—and all parties to contribute to a shared goal.

In such a time of change, a focus on enhanced board engagement, tighter alignment with the institution, and strategic planning informed many sessions—and the work of many foundation boards.
In the year ahead AGB will also be looking to the future of foundations. We will be publishing a board statement on institution-foundation relationships, examining the work of entrepreneurial foundations, and developing new resources to support foundations’ advocacy on behalf of sustained investment in public higher education. Discover all that AGB is doing to support institutionally affiliated foundations.
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