“The Birth of a Foundation”
by Mario Morino
Launching a private foundation requires more than just financial resources. To be successful, a foundation must be grounded in a clear vision so that every grant it awards reflects its goals and philosophy.
The foundation of today is moving away from the basic hands-off, check- writing model of old. Like most organizations in today's tight economy, the foundation must allocate its money wisely. Many donors are taking an active role in the grantmaking process, putting a more personal face on their foundations.
Economic factors are not the only ones driving these changes. A wave of former business executives from the baby boom generation, many from entrepreneurial high-technology companies, are setting up nonprofit foundations to pursue dreams outside the business world. These people have enough wealth to retire from business at a relatively young age and to take on a second career. This trend has benefited the nonprofit world by bringing to foundations the business acumen, management skills, and, most importantly, the contacts of former executives.
What motivates these business leaders to shift gears so dramatically? One factor is the wave of mergers and acquisitions during the past fifteen years, which has resulted in a loss of job security and a new sense of uncertainty among white-collar professionals, including many executives. The approach of a new millennium is also a factor, causing many established men and women to pause and reflect on where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow. Some have turned to a more spiritual life, while others are working to contribute something meaningful to society through means other than business.
A few of the more fortunate men and women from the business world have turned to the nonprofit sector out of a desire to give something back to the society that helped propel their successful careers. One such former executive is Mario Morino, a computer software entrepreneur.
Morino retired from the business world at age 49, after having co-founded and helped to build one of the largest software companies in the world, Legent Corporation (now part of Computer Associates International Inc.). Before the ink was dry on his retirement party thank-you notes, Morino was already planning a new venture, the Morino Foundation. Today the Morino Foundation is a private grantmaking entity that funds individuals and organizations in the spirit of community learning. Its primary beneficiary is the Morino Institute in Reston, Virginia, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals, institutions, and communities come to terms with and find opportunity in what Morino calls the Knowledge Age.