Abstract: Understanding the Organized Philanthropic Activities of Entrepreneurial Families

Marta Rey and Nuria Puig


In this essay, we first explore the organized philanthropic activity of entrepreneurial familie—that is, the set of private initiatives aimed for the public good that are channeled by them through ad hoc independently governed organizations such as foundations. Entrepreneurial families have become major actors in the twenty-first-century global economy, giving rise to increased scholarly interest in the performance, organization, specificities, and overall impact of family firms. The departing idea of this essay is that family foundations, too, have become important economic actors that ought to be included in the business history agenda. The proliferation of family foundations over the past three decades evokes the rise of scientific philanthropy during the first globalization wave. We propose a preliminary framework and methodology to approach the functionalities of corporate foundations for family firms and the perceived benefits of family foundations for entrepreneurial families, based on Spain as a case study but suitable for international comparisons. Fifty-three families and sixty-five foundations are examined and classified in terms of their aims and most visible activities, as well as their interplay with the main businesses of their supporting families and their local, national, and international institutional environment.

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