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Change the club rules

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Big foundations need to expand their focus.

By Todd Cohen

Big Charity is a family that takes care of its own, with big foundations bottle-feeding big charities.

More than one in four dollars given by more than 1,000 of the biggest foundations between 1992 and 2001 went to colleges and universities, with teaching hospitals, museums and orchestras also hauling in foundation dollars, says a Foundation Center study commissioned by The Boston Globe.

“The almost reflexive preference that many foundations have for elite institutions leaves tens of thousands of other nonprofits, many of which serve the poor, trying to out-shout one another for the remaining grant dollars,” the Globe reports. “In most cases, they do not have the connections or the fundraising prowess to attract the attention, much less the money, of private foundations.”

Elite schools and other big charities play a critical social role, and some train and work with smaller charities.

But Big Charity needs to change.

Instead of bankrolling high-profile programs at well-heeled charities, foundations should target more dollars to helping charities large and small better run their businesses and raise money.

By learning to fend for themselves, charities can do more to fix what is wrong in our society.

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