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Research at St Andrews

Michele Fugiel Gartner


Research overview

Philanthropy is the use of private resources – time, treasure, and talent - for the public good. Family foundations are one type of philanthropic institution which encompass this tension between the public and private. However, these unique institutions continue to be characterised and critiqued by their opacity, their effect on social movement and policy-making, their impacts on propagating political ideologies, and a lack of public accountability. These critiques question the legitimacy of family foundations and for what purposes are they allowed to exist.

While these essential conversations draw interest in the study of family foundations, and philanthropic foundations more generally, they often focus on the organisational level. Research on foundations has preferred focus on founders’ intentions, foundation programmatic aims, and the impact of those programs. New perspectives in management research acknowledge that less is known about how the internal actors and dynamics, such as staff within family foundations, shape broader knowledge of these institutions.

My research sheds light on the “black box” critique of family foundations by engaging with the study of professions. I am interested in exploring individual perspectives of the professional, the profession, professionalisation, and professionalism as a way to understand family foundations. My research is drawn from interviews with CEOs of family foundations across the United Kingdom.

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