Ben Franklin, Father of Matching Grants

April 17 is the anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s death. I thought it appropriate then to link back to a post I did titled St. Benjamin, about a man who was in many respects ahead of his time, including in relation to non-profits.

Franklin had the idea for matching grants 200 years before the Ford Foundation did. Back in 1751, he convinced the Pennsylvania Assembly to give $2,000 toward a hospital if $2,000 could be raised privately.

At the time, the idea was consider controversial, even Franklin was a little uneasy about his idea. As I wrote:

Well for one, political opponents felt the move was too conniving. I suppose it was because they didn’t believe he could raise the money and had tricked the Assembly. Franklin noted that knowing that their money would essentially doubled, they gave more.

Franklin himself referred to his innovative idea as a political maneuver so he might have felt a little uneasy about it himself. The success of his plan eased any troubled thoughts he might have had. “…after thinking about it I more easily excused myself for having made use of cunning.”

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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