The Role of Foundations in Society

The role of the not-for-profit foundation in American society is unique and essential to the economic health, vitality and development of the civic sector. Foundations, through their unique tax exempt status, are singularly positioned to serve as incubators of innovation across all sectors of society. The three essential roles foundations fulfill may be identified as Drivers, Partners, and Catalyst.

In the Driver role, the foundations map out and directs the change effort, awarding grants to organizations that will implement the change. In the role of Partner, the foundation shares power and strategy shaping to effect the change. In the role of Catalyst, the foundation’s role is more “hands off” planting financial seeds of development with the understanding that some will germinate and others will not.

Most foundations in fact do most of their grant making in the role of Catalyst, scattering seeds for the future by supporting the existing efforts of grant-receiving organization. To find out more about how FCHS fulfills the roles of Driver, Partner, and Catalyst, visit us at

Source; The Foundation: How Private Wealth is Changing the World by Joel Fleishman