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Spending Out

We’re giving all our money away by 2025.

For over 30 years, the Foundation had been spending between seven and 11 percent of its assets each year — significantly above what’s legally required. As that spending chipped away at the endowment, the question of how much to spend each year became more pressing, and forced more difficult questions:

These awkward questions raised issues of family history, privilege, and purpose. Like many of our allies, we deepened our learning journey about structural racism and economic inequity. We listened to the rising critiques of traditional philanthropy. Spurred on by the urgency of the rising political, cultural, and ecological chaos, we found the decision to spend out was clear: giving all our money away now and talking about it was the most important action we could take. 

Scroll down to meet some pioneers.

Spending Out

Read Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors research on “Strategic Time Horizons” and check out their case study about Compton Foundation’s spend out.

RPA’s Report

The Compton Foundation is a relatively small private foundation, one of over 85,000 in the U.S. alone, whose collective assets (as of 2015) total over $860 billion dollars. As we’ve gone deeper into this spend-out journey we’re excited about the growing number of new foundations that are also limited in lifespan. Many are designing grantmaking and investing practices that build agency and wealth in historically marginalized communities through reparations and investment.

Obviously, foundations cannot single-handedly shift power in ways that fix our broken systems — nor should they be expected to. Only people-fueled movements can do that. 

This is what we call “igniting change.”

We need a strong movement

within philanthropy to press for changing the tax code in a way that redistributes wealth so that communities can determine their own goals and priorities.

We’re Learning From These Spend Out Leaders

S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

1957-2020

Bechtel provides extensive information about operational issues related to their spend-out, as well as sections on learning and evaluation.

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Beldon Fund

Beldon Fund

1998-2008

This is a very comprehensive overview of all aspects of spending out. Beldon’s section on finances has informed our own thinking and financial planning.

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The Brainerd Foundation

The Brainerd Foundation

1995-2020

A succinct and personal account of the foundation’s decisions, procedures, and lessons learned during spend-out offers an inside look into the legacy of a small family foundation.

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Edward W. Hazen Foundation

Edward W. Hazen Foundation

1925-2024

Hazen’s spend-out rationale was very similar to ours. Their website shares a lot of resources about how they have worked with grantees during their spend-out.

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Orfalea Foundation

Orfalea Foundation

2000-2015

Excellent resources regarding staffing and board issues.

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Quixote

Quixote

1997-2017

This is one of the first foundations that the Compton team talked with regarding spending out, back in 2011. They were committed to transparency and grantee-centered decisions in a way that inspired us.

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Stupski Foundation

Stupski Foundation

2015-2029

Still on their journey, Stupski Foundation continually shares their lessons learned. We’ve appreciated their leadership among spend-out foundations.

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The Whitman Institute

The Whitman Institute

1985-2022

The Whitman Institute has been one of our closest partners in our work for many years, centering the importance of relationship and trust-based work. Their spend-out has been well documented and remains one of the most inspiring spend-out journeys we’ve followed.

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