Giving money away wisely ought to be a piece of cake | People & Places | Smithsonian

Giving money away wisely ought to be a piece of cake

It's harder than you think, but even more rewarding, as the Stocker family foundation shows in Lorain, Ohio, and points West

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"It is almost always easier to make a million dollars honestly than to dispose of it wisely," declared Julius Rosenwald, the entrepreneurial genius behind Sears, Roebuck and founder of the Julius Rosenwald fund. Philanthropic foundations, in the business of wise money disposal, pass out grants to the tune of $11 billion a year. While there are a handful of famous billion-dollar giants, the overwhelming majority of American foundations are far smaller and less well known.

Author Edwin Kiester Jr. follows the workings of the Stocker Foundation, a small family foundation in Lorain, Ohio. Founder Beth Stocker, after whose husband the foundation is named, describes the constant dilemma: "Oh, sure, it sounds easy. Five thousand here, ten thousand there. How wonderful! But we can't fund everything. Giving to one means depriving another. We recognize that we're touching real people's lives." As the family has grown, so has the board of trustees and the scope of the grants. Allocations meetings, careful research and follow-up visits are all part of what keeps the foundation, and its grantees, in business.

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