The Council on Foundations is a publicly supported, nonprofit corporation organized under the laws of New York. It is a membership organization providing a wide variety of services primarily for endowed, grantmaking organizations throughout the United States and in foreign countries. The Council is exempt from tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and has received a ruling from the IRS that it is not a private foundation. The purposes of the Council are exclusively charitable and educational and are aimed at promoting, encouraging and enhancing the public good through private giving.
In the course of its history, the Council has grown in size and evolved in structure as evidenced by the following summary:
Under the leadership of Edward L. Ryerson, a leading steel executive in Chicago, and funded by individual community foundations, the National Committee on Foundations and Trusts for Community Welfare is organized. Office space is provided by the Chicago Community Trust, whose retired director, Frank D. Loomis, becomes a part-time executive with the title of Secretary. As a strong volunteer chairman, Mr. Ryerson heads a board of 22 with representatives drawn almost equally from: (1) Community Chests and Councils, (2) Community Trusts, and (3) social service organizations (such as the Boy Scouts and the YMCA) associated with the National Social Welfare Assembly.
On November 19, the organization is officially incorporated under the laws of New York as a nonprofit corporation. The name is changed to the National Council on Community Foundations; new offices are opened in New York City; tax-exempt status is granted by the IRS on November 27; Wilmer Shields Rich becomes the first executive director.
Although originally limited to community foundations as members, the Council for the first time permits private and company foundations to become affiliated with it. Full-time operations begin with a challenge grant of $45,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation. A total of 48 members contribute $7,119 toward a total annual budget of $25,063; office space is provided by the United Community Funds & Councils of America.
Aided by a grant of $50,000 from the Ford Foundation to help the Council become "a national institution," Harrison Sayre, director of the Columbus Foundation (Ohio), is named president of the Council with responsibility for presiding over the Board of Directors.
The Council amends its by-laws to admit family and corporate foundations as full, voting members; the name of the organization is correspondingly changed to the Council on Foundations, Inc. Frank Woods, Secretary-Treasurer of the Woods Charitable Trust (one of the first family foundation members), succeeds Harrison Sayre as president.
By the end of this year, Council membership has grown to 244 foundations—88 community, 30 company and 126 private family.
Wilmer Shields Rich resigns as executive director and in March, David F. Freeman takes over the administration of the Council with the title of president (Frank Woods had resigned in 1967). Kent H. Smith, chairman emeritus of the Greater Cleveland Associated Foundation, becomes chairman of the board and serves for two years. The presiding officer of the board is no longer called president, but the role is still voluntary. By the end of the year, the board has grown in number to 25, and Council membership to 334.
Shock waves go through the foundation field as the result of hearings and other legislative activity leading to passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1969, which, for the first time levies serious restrictions on private foundations including: (1) an excise tax on investment income, (2) a minimum payout requirement, (3) certain limitations on charitable gifts to foundations, and (4) penalties for such activities as self-dealing and excess business holdings.
John R. McLane, Jr., an attorney and trustee of the Spaulding-Potter Charitable Trusts of New Hampshire, succeeds Kent Smith as volunteer chairman of the board and serves for two years. In response to the 1969 Tax Reform Act, an ad hoc group called the Committee on the Foundation Field, chaired by John W. Gardner, is formed to draw up recommendations. Issued in May, the report of the Gardner Committee recognizes the "clear warning" of hostile attitudes held by Senators and Congressmen and significant elements of the general public, and calls upon foundations to recognize the "inherent fragility" of their position in society and the likelihood of further challenges in the years ahead. Summarizing its recommendations, the committee stresses that top priority be given to developing and implementing standards of good practice, improving communications with government agencies, strengthening the influence of grantmakers in national policymaking and increasing public understanding of foundations. The recommendation to merge the Foundation Center and the Council into a single body called the American Council on Foundations is not carried out. Although approved by the Council board, it fails to receive the necessary votes from the Board of the Foundation Center. Nevertheless, the two organizations do work out a number of agreements to identify more clearly the role and activities of each organization.
In response to the Gardner Committee’s recommendation for a closer working relationship, both the Council and the Foundation Center move to new adjoining offices at 888 Seventh Avenue in New York. Eugene C. Struckhoff joins the Council as vice president.
Following his resignation as president of Princeton University, Robert F. Goheen becomes a full-time, paid chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Council with specific duties defined as "policy concerns, public awareness, and Washington liaison." David Freeman continues as full-time president and his role is defined as "chief administrative officer, legal affairs, and the annual conference." The duties of Eugene Struckhoff are designated as "regional organizations, community foundations, and membership development."
On October 31, the first meeting is held of the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs, often referred to as the Filer Commission after its chairman, John H. Filer. Initiated by John D. Rockefeller III, with the encouragement of several government figures including then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Wilbur D. Mills, and Secretary of the Treasury George P. Schultz, the Commission is a privately initiated, privately funded citizens' panel with two broad objectives: (1) to study the role of both philanthropic giving in the United States and that area through which giving is principally channeled, the voluntary, "third sector of American society," and (2) to make recommendations to the voluntary sector, to Congress and to the American public at large concerning ways in which the sector and the practice of private giving can be strengthened and made more effective.
The Filer Commission issues its report, "Giving in America: Toward a Stronger Voluntary Sector" on December 2, later to be supplemented by five volumes of research papers (91 individual studies) plus findings and recommendations. The report remains a landmark effort in highlighting the important issues and in offering detailed research on the problems facing philanthropy in the United States.
On January 29, the board adopts a Resolution on Foundations and Social Justice which is later endorsed by the full membership at the Annual Meeting of Members on May 13. At the end of the year, Robert Goheen resigns as chairman and the board begins a re-examination of the administrative structure of the Council. Having operated for four years with a full-time chairman and a full-time president, the board concludes that this dual leadership pattern still makes sense. Although there is great interest in paring down the role of the chairman over a period of years, the need for a top executive primarily concerned with external relations of the Council is still considered necessary.
On January 1, Dr. Landrum R. Bolling, president of the Lilly Endowment, begins as chairman of the board succeeding Dr. Goheen. David Freeman continues as president but in October indicates his intention to resign at the end of the year. The board amends the by-laws to create a position of chairman of the Executive Committee to serve without compensation. In August, the Executive Committee approves the move of Council offices from New York to Washington, D.C.
Effective on January 1 with the resignation of David Freeman, Eugene Struckhoff officially begins as the new president of the Council. The Executive Committee confirms the previous practice of having the chairman of the Executive Committee serve, in effect, as the vice chairman of the Board to chair meetings of the board when the chairman is not present. The official move to Washington occurs in the spring.
The Council returns to the traditional structure of having a president and chief executive officer (Eugene Struckhoff) and a voluntary chair of the Board of Directors. Leslie L. Luttgens, trustee of the Rosenberg Foundation, becomes the new Chair. After several months of careful review, on June 16, the board adopts a statement of "Principles and Practices for Effective Grantmaking."
In February, the Board of Directors approves changes in the by-laws to permit corporations without foundations to become full members of the Council. In July, Struckhoff resigns, and Vice President Charles S. Rooks is appointed acting chief executive officer. Council membership exceeds 950 (642 private, 159 community, 99 company and 40 corporate members). This number represents a doubling in size over a ten-year period. The Council budget in 1981 is approximately $2.75 million, a five-fold increase from 1971. Staff size over the same period grows from 9 to 40.
In January, the board selects James A. Joseph, vice president and assistant to the chairman of Cummins Engine Company and former Under Secretary of the Interior, as the Council’s president and chief executive officer. At its Annual Conference in Detroit, the Council's board elects Russell G. Mawby, president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, as chairman of the board. On November 4, the board approves a requirement that all Council members subscribe to the approved statement of Principles and Practices for Effective Grantmaking.
At its Annual Conference in San Francisco, following the resignation of Russell G. Mawby, the Council board selects as its new Chair David E. Rogers, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee holds three full days of hearings on private foundations on June 27, 28, and 30. Major legislative recommendations are made to improve the regulation of foundations.
At its Annual Conference in Denver, the Council board elects as its new Chair James P. Shannon, vice president and executive director of the General Mills Foundation. On June 26, the board adopts a provision to accept eligible public foundations as full members; it also establishes a new dues formula applicable to all full members with new maximums and a new minimum of $300. On July 18, President Reagan signs into law the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984. Title III of the act contains numerous changes in the rules governing private foundations including: (1) potential for foundations to reduce their excise tax from 2 percent to 1 percent, (2) more liberal deductibility rules for gifts by living donors to private foundations, and (3) a new limit on grant administrative expenses coupled with a request for a Treasury study on the topic due in 1990. The Distinguished Grantmaker Award is created by the Council’s Board of Directors to honor an individual whose long service and long-term commitment to philanthropy have helped to elevate standards in the field and strengthen the case for philanthropy as an institution. The first recipient of the award, presented at the Council’s Annual Conference in Denver, is Alan Pifer, former president, Carnegie Corporation.
At its Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., the Council board selects as its new Chair Valleau Wilkie, Jr., executive vice president of the Sid W. Richardson Foundation in Fort Worth, Texas. At the close of the year, for the first time membership in the Council exceeds 1,000—581 Independent Foundations, 178 Community Foundations, 165 Corporate Foundations/Donors, 36 Operating Foundations, 28 Public Foundations/Charities and 14 Foreign Foundations. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Ruth Chance, former executive director, Rosenberg Foundation. A new award for creative grantmaking was named for Robert Winston Scrivner, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund for 14 years, after his death in 1984, to honor grantmakers who make a genuine difference in the world of private philanthropy. The Robert W. Scrivner Award, recognizing a grantmaker who, with a combination of vision, principle and personal commitment, is making a critical difference in a creative way, is awarded to Margaret Gage, founder and director, Peace Development Fund.
Congress passes major tax reform legislation that has significant effect on philanthropy. The major changes include: (1) the end of the nonitemizer deduction, (2) the inclusion of gain portions of gifts of appreciated property in calculating the alternative minimum tax, and (3) the requirement that private foundations pay estimated tax. In November, the board approves a three-year initiative to promote the growth of organized philanthropy with separate projects for community foundations, corporate grantmaking and private foundations. At the Council’s Annual Conference in Kansas City, the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is presented to Homer Wadsworth, former director, the Cleveland Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Edward Nathan, executive director, the Zellerbach Family Fund.
At its Annual Conference in Atlanta, the Board of Directors elects as its new chair Dwight Allison, president of the Boston Foundation. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Boisfeuillet Jones, former president, Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Sally Lilienthal, founder, the Ploughshares Fund.
At the Council’s Annual Conference in Los Angeles, the recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Jean Fairfax, a donor and trustee of several foundations, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Patricia Biggers, program officer, the Ford Foundation.
At the Council’s Annual Conference in Toronto, Ontario, the recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is James P. Shannon, former director, General Mills Foundation and the Minneapolis Community Foundation, trustee, the Bush Foundation, and former chair, Board of Directors, Council on Foundations, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Joyce Bove, vice president for special projects, the New York Community Trust.
Humphrey Doermann, president of the Bush Foundation, is elected chair of the Board of Directors at the Annual Conference in Boston. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Paul Ylvisaker, former staff member, the Ford Foundation, and trustee of numerous national and international foundations and corporations. The Robert W. Scrivner Award is not awarded.
The Council sets an all-time annual record bringing in 130 new members to bring the membership total to 1,264. At its Fall meeting, the Council’s Board of Directors approves a revised dues structure effective in 1993 including a new $400 minimum and a system of graduated maximums. At the Council’s Annual Conference in Chicago, the recipients of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award are Irwin Miller, Cummins Engine Foundation, and Clementine Tangeman, Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Polly Nyberg, community affairs manager, the St. Paul Companies.
Lorie A. Slutsky, president and director, the New York Community Trust, is elected Chair of the Board of Directors at the Annual Conference in Miami Beach. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Russell Mawby, former chairman and chief executive officer, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Mary Mountcastle, president, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
At the Council’s Annual Conference in Dallas, the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is presented to Margaret Mahoney, president, the Commonwealth Fund, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Caroline Carpenter, program officer, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
At its Annual Conference in New York City, the Council sets an all-time attendance record of 2,062 and elects as chair of the Board of Directors, Marjorie Craig Benton, trustee of the Bernard Van Leer Foundation. The recipients of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award are David and Lucile Packard, cofounders, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Jack Litzenberg, program officer, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
James A. Joseph resigns as president and chief executive officer effective December 31, 1995, after serving in this position for more than 13 years. Continuing its steady growth pattern, Council membership increases by 129 new members to a new total of 1,391. At the Council’s Annual Conference in San Francisco, the recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Franklin A. Thomas, president, the Ford Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Robert Crane, vice president for program, Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation.
Dorothy S. Ridings is appointed president and chief executive officer of the Council on Foundations at a special meeting of the Board of Directors in February. Skip Rhodes, manager of Corporate Contributions, Chevron Corporation, is elected Chair of the Board of Directors at the Council’s Annual Conference in Atlanta. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Jane Lee Eddy, executive director, Taconic Foundation, and the recipients of the Robert W. Scrivner Award are Rebecca Adamson, president, First Nations Development Institute, and Anne Firth Murray, cofounder and president, Global Fund for Women.
Council membership exceeds 1,500 with a record, annual increase of 157 new members. Attendance at Council meetings also set new records: 1,201 at the Fall Conference for Community Foundations and 871 at the Family Foundations Conference. A three-year Communications/Legislative Initiative is launched in October. At the Council’s Annual Conference in Honolulu, the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is presented to Curtis W. Meadows, Jr., former president and director emeritus, the Meadows Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Rick Little, founder, president and chief executive officer, International Youth Foundation.
Anna Faith Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Boston Foundation, is elected chair of the Board of Directors at the Council’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The Council sets a new record for attendance with a total of 2,200 at the 49th Annual Conference. The Council begins a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary and an 18-month strategic planning process. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Irene Diamond, president, the Irene Diamond Fund, Inc., and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Thomas Layton, president, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation.
The Council celebrates its 50th anniversary at its 50th Annual Conference in New Orleans. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Colburn Wilbur, president, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award is Ethel Rios de Betancourt, president, the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, Inc. The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers becomes the Council's first supporting organization. The Council adopts a strategic plan for the years 2000–2004.
William C. Richardson, president and chief executive officer of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is elected Chair of the Board of Directors at the Council’s Annual Conference in Los Angeles, California. The Council sets a new record for attendance with a total of 2,405 at the 51st Annual Conference. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Dorothy A. Johnson, trustee, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and former President, Council of Michigan Foundations, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking is Stanley S. Litow, vice president, Corporate Community Relations, IBM Corporation, and president, IBM International Foundation. Council membership grows to more than 1,900 and a new Council-wide project on accountability begins.
"Preserving the Public Trust: Responsible Use of Private Wealth for Public Good" is the theme for the Council’s 52nd Annual Conference in Philadelphia, PA. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Anna Faith Jones, president and CEO, Boston Foundation, and former chair, Council on Foundations, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking is Craig E. McGarvey, program director for Civic Culture, James Irvine Foundation. Some members, concerned about repeal of the estate tax, ask the Council to revisit its policy of not taking positions on tax legislation that has a broad effect beyond the charitable field, and members are canvassed on this issue. The Board confirmed the existing policy.
Mary Mountcastle, trustee of the Mary Reynolds Babcock and Z. Smith Reynolds foundations, is elected Chair of the Board of Directors at the Council’s Annual Conference in Chicago. "Opportunity & Uncertainty" is the theme for the Council’s 53rd Annual Conference, which drew 2,200 registrants. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Bill White, president, CEO and trustee of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the recipient of the Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking is Marie C. Wilson, president, Ms. Foundation for Women. The Council and Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media (GFEM) celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Film and Video Festival program recognizing foundation-funded media. As part of the anniversary celebration activities, 14 winning works of cinematic art were presented with the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media. The inaugural Paul Ylvisaker Award for Public Policy Engagement, created to recognize a foundation that has demonstrated courage, passion and vision in its public policy-related activities, went to the McKnight Foundation, for its work in welfare reform in Minnesota.
"Working Together for the Common Good-What Have We Learned about Collaboration?" is the theme for the 54th Annual Conference, which drew 1,600 registrants to Dallas, Texas. The recipient of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award is Steven A. Minter, executive director of the Cleveland Foundation. The recipients of the Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking are Aida Rodriguez, Ph.D., Chair, Nonprofit Management Program, Robert J. Milano Graduate School of Management and Urban Policy; Magui Rubalcava, Director of Programs, Hispanics in Philanthropy; Barbara A. Taveras, Board Secretary and President, Edward W. Hazen Foundation, and Luz A. Vega-Marquis, President and CEO, Marguerite Casey Foundation, for their work on the Funders’ Collaborative for Strong Latino Communities housed at Hispanics in Philanthropy. The recipients of the 2003 Paul Ylvisaker Award for Public Policy Engagement are New York Community Trust, Open Society Institute and the Rosenberg Foundation. Four winning works of cinematic art were presented the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media.
Emmett Carson, president of the Minneapolis Foundation, is elected Chair of the Council’s Board of Directors at the Annual Conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It has been 15 years since the Council’s conference was held in Canada. Winners of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award are Charles and Marjorie Benton, long-time activists in the foundation world, and recipient of the Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking is Chet Tchozewski, executive director of Global Greengrants Fund. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund receives the Ylvisaker Award for Public Policy in recognition of its work on a New York Brownfields project. The Council unveils an initiative called "Building Strong and Ethical Foundations: Doing It Right" in response to media reports of lavish living and excessive compensation at some foundations. The focus of the initiative is on best practices in accountability and governance.
Rien van Gendt of the Van Leer Group Foundation received the Council’s Distinguished Grantmaker Award for 2005, the first executive of a non-US-based foundation to be so honored. The award was conferred at the Council’s 56th Annual Conference in San Diego, California. Nancy Latimer of the McKnight Foundation received the Scrivner Award and the Ylvisaker Award went to Toronto’s Maytree Foundation. The conference theme was “Generosity and Integrity: Values for Leadership in Philanthropy,” and much of the programming revolved around the issues of accountability and governance that are the focal points of the Council initiative on “Building Strong and Ethical Foundations: Doing It Right.” Council president and chief executive office Dorothy S. Ridings retires in August after almost ten years in the position, and Steve Gunderson is announced as her successor. Gunderson is a former senior consultant and managing director of the Washington office of The Greystone Group, a Michigan-based strategic management and communications consulting firm; Gunderson also served 16 years in the U.S. Congress, and three terms in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Council membership stood at more than 2,000 in this first year of a new five-year strategic plan.
2006 can be defined as the year when foundations and the philanthropic community grew in size, grew in service, and grew in scrutiny.
Representing the first year of the new Strategic Framework developed by the Board, and under the leadership of a new President and CEO, the Council on Foundations focused on transitioning its leadership role from effective programming to philanthropic leadership. The 2006 Annual Conference in Pittsburgh introduced the concept of Philanthropic leadership as the first in a series of three annual conferences defining the role of philanthropy as architects of social change. Communication and government relations took on new importance under the strategic plan as the Council sought to communicate the definition and role of philanthropy to the general public, the media and our policy makers. Through discussions about charitable reform, government relations became more visible and active at the national and state levels. Record attendance defined the annual Foundations on the Hill event when philanthropy communicates with their elected federal officials. The growth of philanthropy will probably best be defined by the historic announcement of the largest contribution from one individual to a foundation when Warren Buffet announced plans to donate over $30 billion to the Gates Foundation.
In late April, the Council’s Annual Conference occurs in Seattle, under the title “Philanthropy and the Challenges of our Time.” The Council’s chair, Maxwell King of the Heinz Endowments opens the first annual conference of his tenure, and the board’s vice chair, Ralph Smith of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, serves as chair of the most widely attended Council conference since September 11, 2001. Renewed scrutiny of foundations and philanthropic organizations is the order of the day on Capitol Hill, due to recent publicity of unprecedented gifts to philanthropy. In July, President and CEO Steve Gunderson is asked to testify on behalf of the sector before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight in a hearing on tax-exempt charitable organizations, led by Subcommittee Chair, Representative John Lewis of Georgia.
Diane Kaplan, president and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation is one of two recipients of the Distinguished Grantmaker Award. The other recipient is a collaboration of seven foundations that helped initiate the Action Greensboro program. The Robert W. Scrivner Award goes to John Damonti, president of the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation. The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation is the recipient of the 2007 Paul Ylvisaker Award for Public Policy Engagement. The Wilmer Shields Rich Awards for Excellence in Communications goes to 75 foundations this year. The Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital Media recognized five films with an award. New in 2007 is the Critical Impact Award which recognizes those who truly make a difference in their grantmaking while sharing with the public examples of how philanthropy seeks to enhance the common good. More than ten foundations are awarded the Critical Impact Award.
In December, the Council relocates from Washington, DC, to Arlington, Virginia.
In May of 2008, in lieu of the usual three separate conferences for the different constituencies, the Council on Foundations was the host of a four-day conference that brought together one of the largest gatherings of philanthropic leaders in history. Held in the greater Washington, DC area, Philanthropy’s Vision: A Leadership Summit had more than 3,000 attendants and offered a rare opportunity for organizations and individuals to discuss philanthropy's future with other leaders from around the globe. The year was also marked by a strategic alliance with, and co-location at the Council offices of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. Collaboration in the field of education is one of the first joint projects between the two organizations.