by RAN Member Stefan Toepler and Alan Abramson
VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations volume 32, pages 220–233 (2021)


Interest in collaboration between government and private, grantmaking foundations has grown considerably in recent years both in the USA and abroad. In the USA, one outcome of the increased interest has been the emergence of liaison offices in federal agencies tasked with facilitating partnerships between government and grantmaking foundations and others, such as corporate philanthropic programs. As the government/foundation relationship is still under-conceptualized, we propose a framework that extends general government/nonprofit relationship typologies to grantmaking foundations and present empirical evidence on the foundation roles that government liaison officers prioritize in developing partnerships with their foundation counterparts. Empirically, the article is based on semi-structured interviews with these officers in U.S. federal cabinet departments and independent agencies. Having foundation funding substitute for government outlays factors heavily for government liaison staff. At the same time, the role of foundations in seeding government innovation plays a relatively modest role, despite the prominence of the foundation innovation role in the literature. Rather than having government scale foundation-identified innovations, government liaison officers emphasize foundations funding support services that provide access to or enhance government programs and foundations providing expertise to help co-design better government programs.

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Toepler, S., Abramson, A. Government/Foundation Relations: A Conceptual Framework and Evidence from the U.S. Federal Government’s Partnership Efforts. Voluntas 32, 220–233 (2021).

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