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

16 December 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This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.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 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.


education policy
institutional theory
public policy
private foundations


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