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The 3-Minute Interview: William Schambra

Resource type: News

The Washington Examiner | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

By Hayley Peterson

Schambra is director of the Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, which informs the public on the nonprofit sector and encourages charitable foundations and donors to direct more resources toward grass-roots associations, as opposed to political advocacy groups.

What drove you to establish the Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal?

After 10 years working for the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, it became clear to me that American foundations — which are amply stocked with dollars — should be devoted to reinforcing and renewing civic institutions at the neighborhood level. If donors really care about social problems and society, then they need to help the institutions that tackle those problems, rather than funding public policy institutions.

How do you convince donors to alter the focus of their investments?

One of the most interesting things about American philanthropy is the degree to which it is allergic to honest conversation about what it does. Our primary activity is a monthly discussion we hold every month where we invite expert panelists to thrash out some of the major questions in philanthropy: Is measurement an effective way of giving? Are foundations getting too close to the Obama administration? Are nonprofits too dependent on government? It’s very hard to come by an honest discussion of what nonprofits are doing and whether it’s useful or not.

Does the center participate in any fundraising for nonprofits?

No. I’m not a consultant of any kind. Our program is designed to address this deficiency in philanthropic giving of neglecting strong local institutions. Too much money is going to politics and advocacy and not enough is helping the groups in your own backyard.

How has the center grown since its founding?

We’re now not only supported by the Bradley Foundation but also Atlantic Philanthropies, so we have the support of one of the leading liberal foundations and one of the leading conservative foundations. We are achieving a level of conversation about philanthropy that really is unique.

Hudson Institute’s Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal (BCPCR) is an Atlantic grantee.

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