The modern foundation was invented by 20th century industrialists who had made their fortunes by commanding large, hierarchical, and often highly centralized institutions. Later business leaders copied the model when they turned to giving, and that trend continued up through the late 1990s as some of today’s biggest foundations were brought to scale, most notably the Hewlett, Packard, Open Society, and Gates foundations.
Lately, though, things have been changing. More large new foundations are lean operations, and over time this will become the norm. In time, too, many legacy foundations are likely to change how they do grantmaking—and downsize their organizations as a result.