The Public Interest

Inside the Angels

James D. Koerner

Fall 1986

WALDEMARA. NIELSEN has devoted five years or more to the study of big American foundations and has given us the results in two books that come to about one thousand pages. In his first book, The Big Foundations, published in 1972 and supported by the Twentieth Century Fund, he cast a cold and angry eye on the thirty-three foundations that, at the time, had assets of at least $100 million. In this second book, supported by the MacArthur Foundation, he looks with more charity (so to speak) on the thirty-six foundations that now have assets of at least $250 million. He still finds many of these philanthropies sadly deficient in their staffs, their boards, their grants, and, most of all, in their vision of the good society. But on the whole he is more pleased with what he sees going on today in the big foundations than he was fifteen years ago. The “Nielsen ratings” seem to be going up.

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