Time to unleash proxy power

By Todd Cohen

U.S. foundations are not putting their assets to their most productive use.

Foundation endowments exceed $500 billion, much of which is invested in corporate stock.

Stock proxies give foundations a chance to shape the governance and social policies of U.S. corporations.

Yet most foundations hand their proxy-voting responsibilities to investment managers, which often vote with corporate management, say advocates for more active foundation shareholders.

Now, with proxy season beginning and more than 300 shareholder resolutions with a social impact up for votes, those advocates have published their second annual “Proxy Season Preview.”

The preview lists companies with votes scheduled, as well as foundations involved in filing shareholder petitions, along with relevant news and case studies.

A related publication, “Unlocking the Power of The Proxy,” examines how foundations can exercise their proxy power.

These publications, published by the As You Sow and Jessie Smith Noyes foundations and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, provide valuable tools foundations can use to tap the power of their proxies.

Foundations by law must make grants totaling 5 percent of their assets.

By using their proxy power, foundations can use the other 95 percent of their assets to push for corporate policies in sync with their philanthropic priorities.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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