Foundation Chief Executives as Artful Jugglers

By Fay Twersky, director, effective philanthropy group, at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Hundreds of thousands of books have been written about business leadership, with new titles coming out each year. There is a growing literature about what it takes to build and lead high-performing nonprofit organizations, and a trove of research and writing exists on military and political leadership. Precious little has been written, however, about what it takes to successfully lead a philanthropic organization. While a number of good books about philanthropy have been published lately, each touches only lightly on the subject of leadership, and none focus much attention on the role of the CEO. A recent National Center for Family Philanthropy report about the role of the CEO in a family foundation context makes an important descriptive contribution to the field, but there is room for more research and insight into what it takes to be a successful foundation CEO.