Key Points

Foundations that document their knowledge through an archives are creating a rich legacy of information. Archives preserve and provide access to the raw data that allow researchers to study and analyze grantmaking and its impact on people and communities.

Limited-life foundations may have an even greater incentive to capture their work in an archives: Once they close their doors, much institutional knowledge is lost. By examining two specific cases — the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, which began planning for its archives early it its work, and the Atlantic Philanthropies, which began the process later — this article discusses what it means to build, manage, and preserve an archives of a limited-life foundation.

This article also offers recommendations for foundations seeking to plan and structure an archives, with specific suggestions for organizing and preserving records at various stages of an organization’s lifespan.

Open Access