Unprecedented Times Call for Foundations to Take Unprecedented Actions

Reflecting on Kramer’s essay, “Foundation Payout Policy in Economic Crises,” I find his data and analysis to be unimpeachable. He marshals the facts and posits a set of conclusions that are equally inevitable and incontrovertible. No one makes a case more meticulously or effectively than Kramer does.  

And yet, colleagues can respectfully test and contest each other’s views, without sacrificing their respect for one another. And in this instance, I struggle with two embedded assumptions within Kramer’s essay: One is about the future. The other is about the responsibility that foundations bear in building it.
 
First, I question the essay’s implicit predicate that past is prologue that we can assume, with certainty, that markets will continue to rise and progress, like interest or dividends, and will somehow compound at a steady pace commensurate with our grantmaking. I’m not so sure. 
 
In my eyes, the historic disruption underway, right now, is different in kind, not just degree. It has pushed us to a precipice. We are at an existential moment from which there may be no return unless we act with unprecedented urgency, creativity, and determination.

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