When it’s time it’s time…

Foundations often take a hit for investing in programs for limited periods of time and then moving on to “the next new thing.” In some ways this criticism is valid and in some ways not. Foundations can launch funding initiatives with the implicit, or even explicit, notion that their funds will launch new initiatives that will then be sustained by others. For foundations that support scientific research the “others” are usually federal science funders. Of course there is no guarantee that what any one private funder thinks is a great idea will gain widespread acceptance and generous federal support. On the other hand – if it does, that the foundation, usually with limited resources, has little choice but to look for new opportunities. After a period of time, and the rule of thumb decade turns out to not be a terribly bad estimate, the day comes when you re-evaluate the program and its objectives. If there has been little growth or outside interest in the are of scholarship one is trying to stimulate — it might be time to take a hard look at why and decide what continued investment will yield. If the ideas have caught on and funding from multiple sources is available it is not uncommon to see the proposals submitted to a program RFA become more numerous, more duplicative, and more iterative. And when that happens it is time to move on.

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