What is the right balance between urgent issues and a long view?
The way most foundations operate is by investing an endowment of capital and disbursing a percentage of their return on investment (at least 3.5% from a legal standpoint) to social and environmental organizations. For McConnell, this approach has made capital available over a number of years while retaining plenty for the problems of the future. Considering the challenges of our current era, we’re grateful that J.W. McConnell had the foresight to create the Foundation in 1937, rather than commit all of his philanthropic capital on an annual basis.
However, in October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world had just 12 years left to address the climate crisis. There are only nine years left today, as emissions continue to rise in Canada.
In 2020, we faced additional emergencies — a global pandemic, the associated social effects, particularly among marginalized communities, and a crisis of credibility among many mainstream institutions because of systemic racism.
As we grapple with the urgency of the current moment and what it implies for our work, questions arise for all foundations: should we spend a greater percentage of our endowments? How much? Are there better ways to leverage our current spending? If we spend more today, how do we provide for the increasingly complex problems of 2050 or 2100?