In 1954, Norman Dodd, a banker, led an investigation for the Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations. The thrust of the investigation was to determine if these foundations were giving out money for the reasons they indicated or, if they were really attempting to manipulate the education system in order to take over the world in a Communist coup. In the Fall of 1952, every foundation in the United States with assets totaling more than $10 million was sent a questionnaire seeking details on every aspect of their operation. The foundations complied and it was deemed they were indeed doing what they said and the investigation was dropped.
After the investigation, a handful of foundation leaders posited that transparency would be the best defense against congressional inquiries in the future about private foundation activities and spending. Together, they founded an organization that would be a "strategic gathering place for knowledge about foundations." This was the founding of the Foundation Center.
Today, Foundation Center provides open access to foundation information through a variety of means. We collect detailed data on U.S. foundations, 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, we engage in an increasing amount of global data collection, too. Foundation 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.
Our work does not end there, we currently operate five libraries and learning centers in the United States—one here, in Cleveland. Our libraries offer free access to information and resources as well as educational programs that train nonprofit professionals on finding funders, grant writing and a series of other topics that help build capacity in their organizations. We maintain databases containing information on more than 108,000 foundations, corporate donors, and grantmaking public charities in the U.S. and over 3 million of their recent grants. Today, there are over 470 libraries across the country that subscribe to our services giving free access to their communities.
The Foundation Center also maintains several content-rich websites with a variety of free search tools, tutorials, downloadable reports, and other information updated daily, including Philanthropy News Digest, its daily news service, and IssueLab, its searchable online collection of more than 12,000 documents representing one of the largest collections of social sector knowledge. Grantspace.org provides practical tools and resources such as webinars, tutorials, tools, videos and samples of real documents to help nonprofit professionals succeed.
We are regularly conducting research and publishing reports on the growth of the foundation field and on trends in foundation support of the nonprofit sector, including research advisories on issues including diversity, public policy, and social media.
Every year we educate thousands of people through a full curriculum of training courses — in the classroom and online in the form of self-paced courses and tutorials, as well as webinars. Free and affordable classes nationwide cover the funding research process, proposal writing, grantmakers and their giving, and related topics. We are constantly adding to our collection-new information, studies, and trainings to improve the social sector.
Have a great week!
John Patrick Bailey, Ph.D.