Page Snow is chief philanthropic officer for Foundation Source, a Norwalk, Connecticut-based company that provides a turnkey private foundation service. We spoke to Snow in February about Foundation Source’s services, the current and future state of philanthropy, and why some advisors hesitate to bring up charitable giving with their clients.
What does a chief philanthropic officer do?
I’m the person who advises donors who’ve started foundations on their potential philanthropy; specifically, what causes are they going to give to and how are they going to get results. I do some research for them on the issue, and then we look at the resources they have to give vis-?-vis the issue to make sure they have sufficient resources to have an impact.
So, it’s not simply “here’s the foundation….”?
What Your Peers Are Reading
It depends on the donor. Some want to give basic operating support to nonprofits in their community. Others are very focused on a specific issue or problem and really want to see what results they’re getting with their money. Or they may want [to perform] very thorough due diligence up front on the not-for-profit to make sure their money is actually going to social causes and not paying for administrative expenses. Generally, today’s donors are much more results-oriented than years ago.
So there’s less checkbook charity?
There’s still a lot of that, but the people that I’m dealing with at Foundation Source have set up foundations and want the biggest bang for their buck. A foundation as a charitable vehicle gives donors a tremendous amount of control not only over how their investments are being managed, but also over the actual giving.
That’s one of the differences between a foundation and a donor-advised fund?
It’s the level of the gift. Generally, donor advised funds (DAFs) have lower average [investments] and there’s no required payout requirement, though they generally give out 5% [annually]. Our donors have $1 million, $10 million, $20 million in their foundations, and they have much more control. With a DAF, the donor would make a recommendation to the charity to which they want to give money, and those overseeing the DAF will honor the donor’s wishes, but the donor really doesn’t have full control unless they open a private foundation. We have made it easy to set up a foundation, and our financial partners can offer a foundation as part of their line of philanthropic planning products.
By partners, you mean people like TD Waterhouse?
Yes. Years ago, [advisors] wouldn’t suggest a foundation, even though it has certain advantages, because of the complications of setting it up and running it. We’ve taken that burden away. My job is to take these new donors, who want to do good both for their communities and to have their family do something together, and train them in how to do philanthropy.
What’s your background?
I spent 10 years with the Pew Charitable Trust, one of the top foundations in the U.S., in its evaluation department and in strategic planning. I also developed an internal training curriculum for grantmakers to get them up to speed, and served as the external liaison for the foundation for national and international foundations.