Ronnie Hagerty is a 2012 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University


Philanthropy, Foundations, Nonprofit Sector, Charities, Charitable Organizations, Fundraising, Grantmaking, Philanthropic Foundations, Private Foundations, Houston, Change, Giving Motivation, Community, Leadership

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From the earliest days of the American nation, philanthropy has had a defining role in leading change. Philanthropy has provided vision and voice for nascent social movements ranging from civil rights and the women’s movement to AIDS research and environmentalism. As the 21st century has moved into its second decade, philanthropy finds itself facing significant pressures that threaten to compromise its ability to innovate and advocate for issues and individuals whose voices cannot be heard over the public rhetoric of the day. Once perceived as the purview of the rich and well connected, modern philanthropy cuts across social, economic, and ethnic classifications. Historically, private foundations have played a defining role in philanthropic investment. These tax-exempt charitable organizations, typically funded by a single source (individual, family, or corporation), were created to serve the common good, primarily through grantmaking. As philanthropy continues to evolve through new models and methodologies that enrich, extend, and question traditional giving parameters, foundations are exploring new paradigms for redefining and reinforcing their leadership capabilities. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of economic and social forces defining the environment in which private foundations operate in the 21st century, and to learn how Houston foundations are adapting to this new reality. Further, the research captured their individual and collective vision for the future of foundation philanthropy. The dissertation provides a brief overview history of philanthropy to position it in a 21st century context. Within this construct, the study has assessed the nature and impact of current philanthropic challenges, and sought an understanding of future learning and leadership strategies as defined of by members of the Houston foundation community. This qualitative, multicase research study is comprised of in-depth interviews with Houston foundation leaders. Rather than setting out to illustrate a particular theory, the study has been designed to capture the perceptions of foundation leaders as they assess and adapt to a rapidly changing philanthropic environment. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,