Public Policy

Applying a Rational Systems Approach to the Analysis of Education Philanthropies’ Grantmaking Practices

Sara Sands Teachers College, Columbia University
In this paper, I use a rational systems theoretical framework to analyze foundation grantmaking practices. Using publicly available grant materials, including proposal guidelines and reporting documents, from four major national education funders, I look at the bones of the grantmaking process to probe the underlying belief systems of these organizations. The documents suggest that the relationship between a foundation and its grantees might be seen as resembling that between an organization and the individuals within it, with the foundation exercising control as a means of channeling and coordinating the behavior of grantees in order to achieve its goals. This exploratory work is intended to contribute to a more expansive study developing and deploying an institutional theoretical approach to analyzing grantmaking practices of different foundations operating in education philanthropy.