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Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., is the fourth president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a position she assumed in January 2003. She originally joined the staff in April[…]

With donations and endowments drying up, charities and philanthropies should approach the economic downtown differently, says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Question: How is the recession impacting philanthropies and charities?


Risa Lavizzo-Mourey: How to do more with less, that’s the question that everyone in philanthropy is struggling with. I think one key part of doing more with less is to be more strategic, to realize what the objectives you’re truly trying to accomplish are and then to drive with greater focus towards those objectives.

The other thing that is really critical in doing more with less is to harness the power of your partnerships. The people that you work with, the organizations that are committed to the same objectives. If they know that you’re in it together, and you’re working towards the same objective,s and you agree on how to do more with less, you can actually have a greater impact.

So those are two areas where strategic philanthropy I think is really trying work in a different way in this downturn of their endowment.

Charities, foundations that see themselves as delivering care or filling a need that is unmet in this economic downturn have to take a different approach. They have to look at how to stretch those dollars further and to get services that are in-kind services where they were in the past using cash to provide those services.

So, in a lot of ways how we approach this problem depends on whether we’re a strategic philanthropy or whether we are focused on delivering a charitable service that is greatly needed in this economic downturn.


Question: How is the recession impacting corporate giving?


Risa Lavizzo-Mourey: Over these last couple of years when companies have had to dramatically change their corporate giving, I think they have come to understand just how dependent the communities in which they thrive are on their philanthropy. And I think it has created a new engagement in the community and in understanding that they are part of making that community a thriving place. There are a lot of companies, Johnson & Johnson, Goldman Sachs, many, many others that long had a history of investing in the communities that they live in and in their employees. And I think that out of this economic downturn will come an appreciation by corporations large and small that that is part of their social contract if you will with the rest of the world.


Recorded on: June 30, 2009.