Commentary

Featured Commentary: Lessons in Conservative Philanthropy

National Affairs, No. 35, Spring 2018


Conservative philanthropy appears to be on the threshold of a new phase in its history. The assumptions that have guided it for decades have grown weaker, and a framework for the coming years may now slowly be taking shape. No one can yet know quite what this new phase will involve. But as conservatives, it is precisely in the face of change that we ought to look to history for guidance and for insight.

The history of conservative philanthropy offers no shortage of such insight. But the most promising source may be the path-breaking work of Michael Joyce. Often called the godfather of conservative philanthropy, Joyce ran the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee for a crucial 16 years, from 1985 until 2001, seeing it through a time of change in ways that stand to offer us a particularly timely and relevant set of lessons today.

Both of us were hired by and worked for Joyce at Bradley — one of us for Joyce’s entire term there. We were privileged to know him. And while we cannot say for sure what he would make of the brave new political world we now inhabit, his work and words do offer some hints that are worth following.

There is always a serious risk in “speaking for the dead,” and we would not want to pretend to be confident in just what Joyce might make of our time. But provided it is clear that we are only drawing on our experience with Joyce and on his words and deeds, it might be possible to offer some broad guidance to today’s conservative givers as they face uncharted waters.

Read the full article at National Affairs. 

Daniel P. Schmidt

Daniel P. Schmidt retired as the vice president for program of The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee in 2017.
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Michael E. Hartmann

Hartmann is senior fellow and director of the Center for Strategic Giving at the Capital Research Center. For more than 18 years, he served on the program staff of The…
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