The Foundation Center
is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...
headquartered in New York City. The Center’s stated mission is "to strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy
Philanthropy etymologically means "the love of humanity"—love in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, or enhancing; humanity in the sense of "what it is to be human," or "human potential." In modern practical terms, it is "private initiatives for public good, focusing on quality of...
in the U.S. and around the world." The Center maintains comprehensive databases on grantmakers and their grants; issues a wide variety of print, electronic, and online information resources; conducts and publishes research on trends in foundation growth, giving, and practice; and offers education and training programs online and at its five regional library/learning centers and global network of more than 450 funding information centers known as Cooperating Collections.
The president of the organization is Bradford K. Smith.
In the mid-1950s, John Gardner, F. Emerson Andrews, and other foundation leaders decided to create a "strategic gathering place for knowledge about foundations," positing that transparency would be the best defense against congressional inquiries about private foundation activities and spending. Hence the Foundation Center--known then as the Foundation Library Center--opened in New York City on November 26, 1956. Its founding president was F. Emerson Andrews of the Russell Sage Foundation
The Russell Sage Foundation is the principal American foundation devoted exclusively to research in the social sciences. Founded in 1907 and headquartered in New York City, the foundation is a research center, a funding source for studies by scholars at other institutions, and a key member of the...
and author of Foundation Watcher.
To achieve its goal of providing broad, open access to foundation information, the Center began in 1959 to establish depositories of information in other libraries--now known as Cooperating Collections--nationwide. In 1960 it published the first Foundation Directory,
which is still being published annually. In 1968, the organization’s name was officially changed to the Foundation Center, signifying expansion of its services and activities beyond that of a library.
The organization collects detailed data on U.S. foundations through a variety of means, including grants lists supplied by foundations electronically and in other formats, foundations' publicly-available IRS Forms 990-PF, annual reports, web sites, and mailed questionnaires. Today, the organization engages in an increasing amount of global data collection, too. The Center continues to be publisher and distributor of its own directories, research reports, and nonprofit management and fundraising guides, and makes its databases available via Foundation Directory Online, Philanthropy In/Sight®
, and other online resources.
Education and Training
The Foundation Center provides both free and paid training services to help organizations and individuals seeking funding. Educational programs include the funding research process, proposal writing, grantmakers and their giving, nonprofit management and sustainability, and related topics. Many foundations, including the largest in the U.S., the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, refer their grant applicants and grantees to the Foundation Center for further assistance in finding funding.
The Foundation Center analyzes and interprets the data the Center collects on foundations and their giving to inform the philanthropic sector and the broader public about patterns and trends in foundation growth, giving, and practice. Original research is conducted on international, national, regional, and special topic trends, as well as trends within specific types of grantmaking organizations – including corporate, family, and community foundations. Various media sources and news publications regularly cite Foundation Center statistics, including The Chronicle of Philanthropy
The Chronicle of Philanthropy is a biweekly newspaper that covers the nonprofit world. Based in Washington, DC, it is the top news source for charity leaders, foundation executives, fund raisers, and other people involved in philanthropy...
and The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...