Institutional Isomorphism & the Rise of a Hybrid Model in Education Philanthropy

17 September 2019, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


In this paper, I draw upon a theoretical framework informed by institutional isomorphism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983) to analyze the grantmaking practices of traditional and strategic philanthropies, with particular attention to areas of increasing convergence such as the utilization of measurable outcomes and metrics. Drawing on interviews with foundation officers and grant information from Foundation Directory Online, I find that while differences remain between traditional and strategic philanthropies, a new “hybrid philanthropy” model is emerging that blends outcomes-oriented and field-oriented approaches to grantmaking. I also find that the homogenization of practices across foundations and the influence of larger policy trends focused on data-driven decisionmaking may be leading foundations to exercise what might be termed “high stakes grantmaking.” To the extent that this might conflict with what is good for students and communities, and the goals of democratic decision making in education policy more broadly, additional research is needed.


civil society
education politics
public policy
public-private mix


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.