Sunday, October 10, 2010
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation - Michael Grebe
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"A flagship conservative foundation pays out over 5%
and maintains it s endowment wit h a strong commitment
to donor intent.
In some respects, the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation is the successor to the John M. Olin Foundation. Greatly expanded in 1985 with proceeds from the sale of the Allen-Bradley Company to Rockwell International, the foundation’s board recruited Michael Joyce, one of the architects of Olin, to make Bradley “Olin West.”
Beginning with $290 million in assets, the Foundation entered many of the same areas as Olin, supporting conservative think tanks and university programs, as well as public policy initiatives. With twothirds of its grantmaking in the public policy area, Bradley is active in legal reform, public diplomacy, defense policy, and labor and employment law reform, among others. It gives annual operating support to numerous grantees, and sponsors the Bradley Prizes, four $250,000 awards given annually to prominent conservative thinkers and leaders.
John Olin opted to preserve donor intent in his foundation by requiring it to spend down; Bradley, which was restructured in its current form many years after the death
of the donors, established donor intent through a mission statement, written by Joyce, “to encapsulate the brothers’ philosophy and serve as a guidepost for the foundation’s future giving,” according to John J. Miller in “Strategic Investment in Ideas:
How Two Foundations Reshaped America.” The Foundation, which in 2005 had assets of nearly $756 million, is maintaining its corpus. It also has a “donor intent” program, which offers outside donors the opportunity to align their giving with that of the Foundation; over $3 million was contributed in 2005.
However, Michael Grebe, an attorney who became the Foundation’s President when Joyce retired in 2001, says that the foundation’s mission requires spending more than 5%.
The formal policy, established about four years ago, is a payout of 5.5% of
the value of Bradley’s endowment on a trailing 12-quarter basis, on grants only.
Administrative expenses increase the percentage to over 6%. Prior to the adoption of this policy, payout had been determined each year. “We looked back 15 years, and 5.5% was close to the average, so we adopted it as a firm policy,” Grebe says. “We assume our investment returns will more than cover that level.”
The payout policy, which sometimes results in additional excise taxes, is revisited annually. Unlike Olin, the Bradley Foundation also developed a strong local funding
program, giving regular support to cultural, educational, and community institutions in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. As detailed by Miller, Bradley, by “acting locally and thinking globally,” made Milwaukee a showcase for many of its conservative ideals.
One of the most dramatic of these was the school choice movement:
Wisconsin was the first state to allow public dollars to be spent for children to attend private schools. Bradley’s support for the effort was multifaceted. Beginning in the 1980s with grants to support the book “Politics, Markets and America’s Schools,” which argued powerfully for school choice, and assistance in founding the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, the foundation also gave grants to the Landmark Legal Foundation, which fought attacks on school choice, and funded a private voucher scholarship program designed to make religious schools an option for voucher students and to widen the public policy discussion on the issue.
After a long-running court case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of school choice in 1998. "
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