Spend Down / Essays


ACBP President Jeff Solomon
and Vincent McGee



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GrantCraft & Philanthropy
News Digest
In Conversation
With Charles Bronfman



Getting Out While Starting Up:
21/64 and Slingshot
Sharna Goldseker, Executive Director of 21/64 and Jenna Weinberg, Interim Director of Slingshot

Making Change by Spending Down, a blog series of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, in partnership with the Foundation Center, shared lessons and perspectives of ACBP during the final years before it spent down its endowment. Contributors explore how a foundation’s decision to spend down affects a broad range of interests, from its mission, employees, and grantees, to its investments and legacy. Decision makers across the social sector have benefited from the first-hand knowledge and community of learning created by the collection. Posts since the inception of the series—28 blog posts, two videos, and one podcast—are memorialized in a collection that will be hosted by GrantCraft in perpetuity.

CASE STUDY: Making Change by Spending Down

acbp case studyThe Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) and GrantCraft, a service of Foundation Center, partnered to tell the story of the ACBP spend down in a series of blogs that has been memorialized in a comprehensive case study.

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The Power of Philanthropy
By Charles Bronfman, December 2015

Through this blog series, we’ve heard firsthand from many different ACBP partners including staff, grantees, and other funders about their experiences. We asked questions about the spend down of one another, served as mentors to incubated programs and the next generation of leaders, and, all the while, learned what it means to fulfill our mission up until the very end. Now that we’ve conducted 30 months of blogging about topics such as managing human resources, grantee sustainability, and operational considerations, I’d like to reflect on what we did and what’s next for the field. Read More

When Legacy and Field-Building Go Hand-in-Hand
By Jen Bokoff, November 2015

I have known aspects of the work of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies since I was a teenager, when the Birthright program was first presented to me as a way to learn about and strengthen my Jewish roots. I have now been humbled to work closely alongside the foundation’s staff for more than two years as a partner in communicating their spend down strategy. I have learned through this blog series about the foundation’s values and legacy, the strategy and process behind spending down, and opportunities to encourage field building along the way. I’m pleased to share some of these insights with you in this second-to-last series post. Read More

The Green Environment Fund: Exiting a Field
By Sigal Yaniv Feller, October 2015

While GEF’s closing might have posed challenging to the future of the environmental movement in Israel, the core objectives of the Fund were achieved. A sophisticated social environmental movement emerged that engaged many partners to think strategically and cooperatively, raised national awareness and developed a dialogue and partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Read More

Getting Past the Hamster Wheel
By Andrés Spokoiny, September 2015

One of the most popular recurrent dreams comes in different variations, but the core feeling is always the same: we run but we don’t advance. We wake up with a feeling of being caught in an inescapable hamster wheel, a sort of eternal Sisyphean cycle of useless effort. I leave the explanation of these dreams to neuroscientists, psychologists, and astrologists, but my own interpretation is a metaphor for a deep malaise that affects that philanthropic sector: the inability to produce systemic change. Read More

Cultivating Programs for Next Generation Donors
By Sharna Goldseker, August 2015

Fifteen years ago, as Charles Bronfman and his late wife Andy were ushering Birthright Israel into its toddler years, they inherently understood that next generations would have new ideas about Jewish life and new energy to contribute to it. One strategy they supported began in 2002, when Jeff Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), hired me to encourage next generation donors to bring their own ideas and resources to bear on the Jewish world. Read More

Thinking Outside the Box: How Partnerships Grow a Foundation’s Impact
By Amanda Levine, June 2015

One thing that particularly strikes me about what we do here at the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) is that we operate programs within the foundation; we don’t just write checks. Partnering isn’t done the same way everywhere, and what I particularly appreciate about our model is that it includes sharing strategies about how to start a new project, and engaging individuals and organizations to recognize the value of pooling resources together and challenging other funders to put up the funds. Read More

Foundation Life: Beyond Money and Grantmaking
By Jeff Solomon, May 2015

Foundations have a great deal more potential for impact, influence, and leverage than simply their grantmaking. As we at the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies rapidly approach our sunset date, we have been reflecting on those many examples of achieving our foundation’s objectives that go well beyond the grant. Read More

Protect your mission: offload non-core activities and share services
By John Hoover, March 2015

To get a better handle on the challenges facing young organizations in the field, ACBP, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Jewish Funders’ Network surveyed 56 nonprofit organizations with various budgets, sizes, and missions. Based on the survey and focus groups with membership organizations, charities, and their advisors, we identified common challenges and possible solutions and opportunities. Read More

Enhancing Canadianism through a Partnership Mosaic
By John F. Prato, Consul General of Canada, January 2015

I, like many Canadians, have better understood our history and citizenship through well-narrated stories broadcasted on television and in cinemas, called Heritage Minutes. The success and appeal of these vignettes did not happen by chance, but through the work of two of Canada’s greatest citizens: Charles and Andrea Bronfman. Read More

Improving Communities in Israel through Partnerships
By Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General, State of Israel, January 2015

In my role as Consul General, I work to ensure a vibrant society in Israel by maintaining strong friendships with influential American Jewish organizations. It is my privilege to write to you today about the valuable contribution that the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) has made over the years to the State of Israel, proving that foundations truly can work alongside government to impact positive change in communities and even nations. Read More

What do you do with a couch potato?
By Franklin Silverstone, December 2014

Many foundations have the treat of operating in a decorated space full of art. The art may be finger painted by kids who benefit from a funded program, or decorative art initially acquired to enrich and enliven the space. When a foundation spends down, what happens to the art?  We spoke with the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies art curator Franklin Silverstone to find out. Read More

Transitioning Legacy: Maintaining philanthropic tradition
during and after spend down
By Nancy Rosenfeld, November 2014

The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies is not the only time limited foundation within the Bronfman families’ philanthropy. The Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation (SSBFF) was established in 1952 by Sam and Saidye Bronfman in their hometown of Montreal. While this family foundation no longer has living donors, each of their four children has sat on its Board of Directors at one point. Read More

Why Document Spend Down?
By Charles Bronfman, September 2014

I hold no brief for spend down foundations or for perpetual foundations. In 2001 we chose to spend down the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP). Right from the get-go, we decided to be a proactive foundation by taking on niche issues that both appealed to us and that were not being covered or adequately addressed by others. Also, measurement was an integral part of our philosophy. We believe that everything can, and should, be measured. Too many in the philanthropic world pat themselves on the back, and applaud themselves for having saved the world or at least part of it. We always hoped that whatever applause we received would be based on the achievement of preset goals. Read More

Five Steps to a Successful Spend Down: Operational Priorities
By John Hoover, August 2014

As was previously addressed in the most recent ACBP series blog, there is limited content available on the process of how foundations spend down. This essay contains a list of financial and operational priorities that we believe are important to consider in the beginning stages of spend down, and to monitor throughout the spend down process. Read More

Steps to a Successful Spend Down: Strategic Priorities
By Mariah Schuknecht, August 2014

We have been surprised by the limited content available on the process of how foundations spend down, rather than the more broadly discussed topic of why foundations spend down. We therefore went on a mission to consolidate both the process-related experiences of ACBP and other organizations’ research papers and articles relating to spending down. This is the first of two blogs this month that highlights the steps involved and items for consideration that we have organized from our research. Read More

Debating Perpetuity: Five considerations
By John Hoover, July 2014

Several years ago, ACBP set out to research issues facing spend down foundations. To our surprise, there was little information available. Since then, there has been an increasing amount of publications and forums around spending down assets as compared to perpetuity. In absorbing this information, we have a few considerations to highlight. Read More

Our Road to Independence
By Ann Dadson, June 2014

Historica Canada began in 1989 as a key program of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) and evolved into an independent nonprofit a decade later in a deliberate, purposeful manner. As sustainability of incubated programs is a priority for ACBP, Historica Canada’s experience offers lessons to other organizations aiming for independence. Read More

Doing Spend Down Right
By Marty Linsky, May 2014

In the summer of 2010, I received a call from Jeff Solomon, President of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP). “We are spending down. We will close our doors in 2016. We want to do spend down ‘right’ and want to document our process so other organizations can learn from our experience.” ACBP knew they needed some outside assistance, but they did not know what that would or should look like. Our first task at Cambridge Leadership Associates (CLA) was to help Charles, Jeff and the ACBP staff turn their aspiration into a more concrete and shared view. What does spending down “right” actually mean? How does it look at the ground level? Read More

The Sloping Reality of Spend Down
By Jeffrey Solomon, April 2014

Immense change is part of life for any foundation that is spending down. Employees are naturally concerned about their futures, while management is focused on smooth organizational transition. This is the third consecutive piece of the series that examines issues relating to employee attitudes and relations within a spend down environment. Read More

Making Impact at a Spend Down Foundation
By Amanda Levine, February 2014

As a new hire at The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), I am grappling with the notion of the foundation’s spend down while simultaneously growing my professional skills. This is the second of three consecutive pieces examining issues relating to employee attitudes and relations within a spend down environment. Read More

From Philanthropy to Food
By Jason Soloway, January 2014

In 2011, The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies announced it would begin to spend down its financial resources and close its New York-based foundation in 2016. This decision needed to be treated with great sensitivity, as it would have a significant impact on the organization’s many stakeholders, including its grantees, programs and employees.This is the first of three consecutive pieces in this blog series to examine issues relating to employee attitudes and management within a spend down environment. Read More

The Mission of Spend Down
By Jeffrey Solomon, December 2013

In this latest in a continuing series of blogs about spending down - as manifested at the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP) - I am focusing on the impact of spend down on our foundation's overall mission and what lessons might be generalized in this arena. Read More

A Generational Transition
By Stephen Bronfman, November 2013

Philanthropy – as my father often says – is in the Bronfman DNA, and we are fortunate to be able to practice it generously and expansively. Representing this philanthropic tradition properly and effectively is a responsibility I embrace and will pass to my own children. Read More

The Transparent Spend Down
By Charles Bronfman, September 2013

My parents were my greatest mentors. They taught me the meaning of philanthropy through their active involvement in so many causes. Creating initiatives to address social, cultural and community needs now, and facilitating positive change for the future, were and remain guiding principles. Those principles became the foundation for The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), which my late wife, Andy, and I established in 1985. All along, we believed in creating programs with long-lasting effect and which could and would make a real difference in the world. Read More