The Foundation Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City. The Center’s stated mission is "to strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy 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 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 and The New York Times.
- About Us, Foundation Center web site
- Foundation Center. "2010 Annual Report." New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2011.
- "Bradford K Smith Selected New President Of The Foundation Center," NonProfit Times, May 21, 2008.
- Carnegie Corporation of New York. Annual Report 2002-2003, page 21, Report of the President "Transparency and Accomplishment: A Legacy of Glass Pockets," by Vartan Gregorian, 2003.
- "Russell Sage Foundation. Celebrating 100 Years of Social Science Research: Russell Sage Foundation 1907-2007," p. 5, 2007.
- Andrews, F. Emerson. Foundation Watcher, page 181. Franklin and Marshall College, 1973.
- Foundation Center. “40th Anniversary: A Retrospective.” Foundation Center, 1996.
- Additional Grant Seeking Resources for Organizations, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation web site
- "Foundation Giving in ’08 Defied Huge Asset Decline," by Stephanie Strom, New York Times, March 30, 2009.