What is the best way to give?

This is the persistent question donors face as they contemplate what to do with their wealth.

Should I set up a private foundation in perpetuity? If so, what are some of the best ways to avoid mission creep and to maintain donor intent?

Or should I follow the “giving while living” ethic of Chuck Feeney and others who have set up philanthropic foundations with specific term limits, thus making sure to spend down all capital within a detailed timeframe?

These and other questions are being addressed throughout the week at Philanthropy Daily as part of an online forum on donor intent in the wake of the fourth edition of Martin Morse Wooster’s seminal book on the subject, How Great Philanthropists Failed & You Can Succeed in Protecting Your Legacy.


A flawed defense of perpetual foundations. In the first article, Martin Morse Wooster reviews Joel L. Fleishman’s book, Putting Wealth to Work, in which he tries to persuade donors that the right thing to do is to create perpetual foundations with few restrictions.

Donor intent gone wrong. In the second article, Scott Walter discusses the ways in which history is littered with examples of philanthropists who failed to secure the legacy they intended.

Leaving it to the professionals. In the third article, Eduardo Andino contends that when professionalization takes hold of foundations, the historical record shows how they tend to undermine donor intent.

Success stories of donor intent. In the fourth article, Martin Morse Wooster features two outstanding examples that illustrate how donor intent can be preserved in a perpetual foundations.

How to protect your philanthropic legacy. In the fifth article, Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill provides practical strategies to help donors preserve their philanthropic intent.

The complexities of ‘donor intent.’ In the sixth article, Travis LaCouter argues that the question of donor intent is not simply, ‘What would our founder have done?’ but rather, ‘How do we implement our founder’s vision today?’

Why I wrote about donor intent and why it matters. In the seventh article, Martin Morse Wooster reviews the reasons why he wrote his seminal book on the subject, and why it matters.


As always, please email us at editorial@philanthropydaily.com with any comments or suggestions. If you’d like to respond to a post beyond the limitations of comments sections, don’t hesitate to contact us.

We hope that you enjoy the forum!