The decision by the board of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation not to renew the contract of the foundation's president, Robert Gallucci, came as a surprise to many. To others, however, it was a sign that major foundations like MacArthur realize they need to do more to keep pace with the technology-driven transformation of the social sector, Crain's Chicago Business reports.
In the April 29 announcement of the board's decision, board chair Marjorie Scardino said, "[We] decided to look for a new kind of leadership to accelerate the pace of change in how MacArthur can use existing and new tools to tackle even bigger goals."
Andrew Solomon, MacArthur's vice president of public affairs, told Crain's that responding more quickly to issues such as hunger does not necessarily mean the foundation will start awarding grants to soup kitchens or stop supporting research and policy measures to end hunger in the long term. "While the global pace has quickened, we have to make sure that the pace of our work fits the problems we seek to address," said Solomon, pointing to MacArthur's decade-long support for research into juvenile brain development, which fueled efforts to eliminate the death penalty for juveniles. The foundation will continue to award its so-called "genius grants" and its support for organizations in the areas of conservation, sustainable development, and justice and human rights.
The foundation saw its assets decline some 25 percent between 2007 and 2013, resulting in significant declines in the foundation's grantmaking in the areas of international higher education, human rights, and justice. On a more positive note, its overall grantmaking increased in 2013 for the first time in five years, to an estimated $228.5 million.
"The question for the MacArthur Foundation going forward is, how do they make sure that the programs they're engaged in are relevant to the times we're living in?" said Independent Sector president and CEO Diana Aviv. "The changes to our society are so fast and vast and monumental and have such great impact on the nonprofit and philanthropic sector that any institution that’s operating on principles from ten years ago may find itself very challenged."