Salamon to stay at Johns Hopkins

By Ret Boney and Todd Cohen

Plans have been dropped to create a new institute at The Foundation Center in New York City that would have merged and expanded philanthropic and nonprofit research previously conducted there and at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Lester Salamon, who directs Hopkins’ Center for Civil Society Studies and was to have headed the new Alexis Institute for Civil Society and Philanthropy at The Foundation Center, has decided to stay at the university.

“We reached the conclusion that our respective expectations and operating procedures were too disparate to come together,” he says.

Sara L. Engelhardt, president of The Foundation Center, says the merger failed because of differences over the process for “setting of strategic priorities.”

While both sides agreed on broad concepts for the new institute, she says, they had a harder time agreeing about how it would function and how responsibilities would be divided.

“The procedures, the processes for setting strategic priorities, are different for a research group at a university, and in a nonprofit organization such as we are,” she says.

“Our institutions are run in very different ways, and it became too difficult to reconcile the operating procedures we felt were important to our work,” she says. “In particular, we found that we use different decision processes for setting priorities. We concluded that we’re better off working as colleagues in the field, as we have in the past, rather than joining forces within a single institution.”

In May, The Foundation Center announced that Salamon would leave Hopkins, where he founded the Center for Civil Society Studies 18 years ago, to create and direct the Alexis Institute at The Foundation Center.

Engelhardt said at the time that The Foundation Center planned to raise $10 million for the new institute, which would study and spur philanthropic and nonprofit activity and innovation in the U.S. and abroad.

Engelhardt says The Foundation Center will continue its search for someone to head its expanded research unit, and will return to its original fundraising plans.

The organization has begun a campaign to raise $15 million, including $2.5 million over five years for a research initiative.

The campaign will continue, Engelhardt says, but will not include an additional $2.5 million that would have been raised for the more ambitious research effort Salamon was to have undertaken.

The Foundation Center also has abandoned plans for a separate campaign to raise $5 million in endowment that would have supported the Alexis Institute, Engelhardt says.

She also says she hopes in the future that The Foundation Center will work with Salamon on some of the research activities that had been envisioned for the Alexis Institute.

Salamon said in May that the new “joint venture,” named for Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th-century French historian and author of Democracy in America, would expand the scope of research in the face of growing innovation in philanthropy and growing awareness of the critical role nonprofits play, both in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Salamon says he plans to continue work already underway at Hopkins that includes convening a roundtable, known as the “Listening Post” project, to discuss recent input from a panel of nonprofit representatives on the sector’s need for investment capital.

He says he also will continue implementation of the UN Nonprofit Handbook project, which seeks to reform how nonprofit data are treated across the world, thereby generating information that is a more accurate reflection of the sector.

The handbook, he says, will “revolutionize the available data on nonprofit organizations around the world.”

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