Key Points

The rise of greater individuality in giving — in diversity of beliefs and donor preferences — has resulted in a need to ensure alignment of values and expectations between those entering into funding relationships, and therefore a need to return to giving that recognizes the importance of conditions and considerations that undergird the partnership between the philanthropic organization and awardee.

The Kern Family Foundation’s nearly $88 million investment in the Medical College of Wisconsin represents one example where creating a charter was pivotal to a partnership’s effectiveness. Their charter describes a commitment to shared values, including character, caring, and practical wisdom, as well as freedom of expression, principled innovation, merit, and inclusive excellence.

This article describes how creating a charter of principles shared by funder and grantee can establish a common language and understanding of the key priorities and principles guiding the funded work. A charter also helps a partnership navigate new opportunities and challenges with the knowledge that its actions align with its shared values, serving as a framework for continued dialogue and reflection.

This article shares insights into the process of developing this charter, its key elements and benefits, and lessons learned. It seeks to offer guidance to other philanthropic organizations and awardees on optimal strategies for positioning their partnerships for ongoing alignment and accountability to the principles that undergird their work.

Open Access