March 2, 2002

Edna McConnell Clark Foundation: A New Approach to an Old Foundation

This Harvard Business School case study profiles how EMCF transformed its grant-making theory and practice to focus on institution and field building.

Michael Bailin, president of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF), embarked on a three-year effort to transform the foundation's grant-making in theory and practice. This case details his efforts to move from an "initiatives-based" approach in philanthropy to a focus on "institution and field building." Bailin felt that instead of simply devising better services for people in poor and disadvantaged communities, the foundation could bring these services to more people through better-run, more efficient, and more durable organizations. Yet, questions remain on whether EMCF can find the capabilities needed for the new model to work. Also, can EMCF succeed independently, or does a shift in thinking of this magnitude require a major restructuring in philanthropy, which would be outside the foundation's control?

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