Seattle’s Quixote Foundation To Spend Its Entire Endowment

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Foundation believes next few years are a landmark chance to make the most of assets and help progressive causes; sees spending it all as spending up into its purpose; encourages others to converse about accelerated spending

Quixote Foundation

The point is to become the most effective change agent we can be, even if that means not being a foundation anymore in the institutional sense

Quixote Foundation (, a Seattle-based family foundation that funds progressive causes, has announced its intent to spend all of its money between now and 2017. This decision has roots in founder Stuart Hanisch’s belief that a donor’s role is secondary to what people and organizations do on the ground. Conditions that favor progress in each of the foundation’s areas of interest have convinced the foundation’s leadership to spend everything over a short term – instead of just giving a percentage each year – in order to have the maximum impact.

“The point is to become the most effective change agent we can be, even if that means not being a foundation anymore in the institutional sense,” says Lenore Hanisch, co- executive director of Quixote Foundation. “We have never seen a confluence of specific urgencies, dynamic openings, and innovation like this moment represents, so we’ve decided to spend everything now. We think doing so will have the strongest perpetual impact.”

Quixote Foundation’s areas of interest are environmental equity, reproductive rights, election integrity and media reform. According to the foundation, rules being debated right now will define whether people have access to affordable broadband and an open internet, or if those basic tools and freedoms will be restricted. Election officials are making technology-related purchasing and policy decisions that will decide whether generations of U.S. votes are secure. Pioneering investments in green energy ownership, infrastructure and jobs will affect racial and economic disparities. These and other events convinced Quixote Foundation that the next few years are a landmark chance to make the most of its assets by spending into those areas quickly.

The foundation joins a small but growing number of foundations who have chosen this strategy. A recent report from the Foundation Center ( says 12% of foundations nationwide plan to spend down, although most have not yet started the process and only a quarter of those have announced their plans publicly; 25% are still undecided. Quixote Foundation leadership has been inspired by what other foundations are accomplishing as they spend everything. The French American Charitable Trust is funding ideas, leaders and organizations whose particular work will be magnified with up-front investment. The Brainerd Foundation is boosting immediate progress toward environmental goals in order to pass strong momentum forward to new conservationists and donors who emerge. The Beldon Fund positioned grantees to win by building their capacity, clout and base of support. In each case, the focus and results have been enlivened by spending everything.

While “spending down” is a common term to describe the process, Quixote Foundation sees it as “spending up,” believing that spending everything is not a process of diminishing a foundation; it’s a process of fulfilling a foundation. They are using a social media campaign to stimulate conversation within the philanthropy world about spending everything as a strategy—hoping other foundations will engage in the conversation and consider accelerated funding as well.

“Historically conversations at foundations about this topic have centered on perpetuity or limited lifespan. We believe it’s not an either/or conversation but another way of looking at perpetuity,” says June Wilson, Quixote Foundation. “Spending everything is working in perpetuity – just a different approach. We are going to spend up into work and voices that will continue to be heard. We hope others will offer their perspectives on the strategy online through Twitter and Facebook. ”

The foundation plans to keep funding within its four interest areas, each of which has specific urgencies, and also sees opportunities that bind together the whole. It has not determined the entire set of grants it will make but has a strong sense of direction. The plan is to fund a mixture of increased annual grants and one-time, “landmark” large commitments. Due to financial market ups and downs, the spending will need to be adjusted along the way. The plan is for 2016 to be the last year of grantmaking followed by an administrative year in 2017.

About Quixote Foundation
Quixote Foundation was founded in 1997 in Madison, Wisconsin by Arthur Stuart Hanisch. The Quixote Foundation wants to see free people in fair societies on a healthy planet. Its interest areas are: U.S. media reform, U.S. election integrity, U.S. reproductive rights and U.S. environmental equity

Quixote Foundation, Inc.
5405 Leary Avenue NW, Suite 2
Seattle, WA 98107

Facebook: Quixote Foundation
Twitter: QuixoteTilts
Twitter Hashtag: #spendup
Subscribe to Tiltings to hear more from Quixote Foundation as its plans develop:
Phone: 206.783.5554


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