Lecture: Philanthropy expert Ken Prewitt to discuss ‘Do charitable foundations make a difference?’ at IUPUI

INDIANAPOLIS — America’s 86,192 charitable foundations frequently receive both praise Kenneth Prewitt Imageand criticism for their efforts to create change. Are they really making a difference? Former Rockefeller Foundation executive, foundation scholar and Columbia University Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs Kenneth Prewitt will explore the topic “Can Foundations Know If They Are Making a Difference? Navigating between Ivory Towers and Performance Metrics” during a talk at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis next week.

The program, presented under the auspices of the Stead Family Chair in International Philanthropy at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, will begin with a 5 p.m. reception followed by Prewitt’s lecture at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10, in the lower level of the Lilly Auditorium at University Library, 755 W. Michigan St., on the IUPUI campus.

Prewitt’s talk will be followed by a panel discussion with local philanthropy leaders and faculty, including:

  • Dewayne Matthews, vice president of strategy development, Lumina Foundation
  • Christie Gillespie, vice president of community impact, United Way of Central Indiana
  • Catherine Herrold, assistant professor of philanthropic studies, IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Prewitt, the former director of the U.S. Census Bureau, argues that it is increasingly important for foundations to effectively track, measure and share whether the work they fund actually helps make a difference, and he deems insufficient the current reporting methods used by U.S. foundations.

Prewitt previously has written that “significant, specific achievements can be attributed to foundation grantmaking” but also notes, “Although not wishing to subtract from the worthiness and social significance of these achievements, skeptics might ask … how we can assess the magnitude of social change in relation to the funds spent.'”

“The debate about whether and how foundations’ impact can be measured is a long-standing but important conversation,” said Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean of the school. “Ken Prewitt’s research, thought leadership and insightful questioning of how we assess foundations provide context to help philanthropic institutions evaluate their impact and consider whether adjusting or rethinking metrics could enhance the services they fund and provide.”

The event is free and open to the public; RSVPs are requested.

IUPUI professor provides retrospective as Rockefeller Foundation turns 100

INDIANAPOLIS — Before there was a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or a Ford Foundation, there was the Rockefeller Foundation, whose philanthropic muscle dominated scientific and medical research for four decades.

The Rockefeller Foundation on May 14 announced its 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, a $100 million effort to help 100 cities around the world prepare to weather and rebound from either natural or manmade disasters. The campaign continues a visionary approach to “promoting the well-being of mankind throughout the world” that began with the foundation’s creation 100 years ago this month.

“Rockefeller is a well-known name, but most people aren’t familiar with the family’s specific contributions,” said Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor William H. Schneider. “Researchers get grants and fellowships. Those are things that didn’t exist before the Rockefeller Foundation.”

The Rockefellers’ contributions went beyond funding to creating the mechanisms for dispersing or awarding funds. Lessons learned by the Rockefeller Foundation could well serve today’s leading philanthropic giants, said Schneider, head of the Medical Humanities and Health Studies program in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

The May 16 issue of Nature magazine provides a historic perspective on the Rockefeller Foundation in an article written by Schneider, “Philanthropy: The difficult art of giving.” Schneider is a professor of history in the School of Liberal Arts and a professor of philanthropic studies in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

The IUPUI professor is the editor of “Rockefeller Philanthropy and Modern Biomedicine,” published by Indiana University Press in 2002. The content is the work of experts gathered for a conference at the Rockefeller Archives Center in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Schneider is also author of the forthcoming book, “The History of Blood Transfusions in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

To reach Schneider for interviews about the history of the Rockefeller Foundation and its impact on philanthropy, email whschnei@iupui.edu; call 317-274-4740; or contact Diane Brown, at 317-274-2195 or habrown@iu.edu.