Foundation Center

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Foundation Center is an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City, United States. The Center’s stated mission is "to strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy in the U.S. and around the world."[1] Foundation 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 hubs and more than 400 Funding Information Network locations.[2]

The president of the organization is Bradford K. Smith.[3]

In 2019, Foundation Center merged with GuideStar to form a new organization, Candid.[4]


In the mid-1950s, John Gardner, F. Emerson Andrews, and other foundation leaders created 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. Board chair of Carnegie Corporation of New York at that time, Russell Leffingwell, told a McCarthy-era Congressional hearing that "We think that the foundation should have glass pockets." [5] This statement helped to define the purpose of Foundation Center – known then as the Foundation Library Center – as it opened in New York City on November 26, 1956.[6] 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 the Funding Information Network – nationwide. In 1960 it published the first Foundation Directory, which is still being published annually.[7] 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.[8] In 2014, "The" was dropped from the name.

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.[9] 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, Foundation Maps, and other online resources.

The Funding Information Network[edit]

The Funding Information Network (FIN, for short) began just a few years after Foundation Center was founded in 1956, with the establishment of eight regional depositories. According to internal historical documentation, the very first depository was established in 1959 in Chicago, followed in 1962 by locations in Texas and Kansas. By 1978, the Network expanded to 75 “collections” with at least one collection in all fifty states. Between 1978 and 2013, these “Cooperating Collection” sites evolved from locations which housed collections of Foundation Center directories and databases to locations that engaged their social sector community, providing dynamic support and training on Foundation Center resources. In 2013, Cooperating Collections rebranded as the Funding Information Network, a name more reflective of the responsive network of support and services the program provides. [10]

Network partners range from public libraries, to community foundations, to NGOs, and other types of community agencies. Over 20% of FIN partners have been with Foundation Center for 30 years or longer. By the same token, an equal percentage of partners are new or have been with the program for less than 5 years. [11]

Funding Information Network partners provide access to Foundation Center resources, including Foundation Directory Online and other databases, as well as training curricula from Foundation Center's suite of classes on fundraising, organizational sustainability, and leadership and management. Network partners pay an annual access fee for these resources, which they agree to provide to members of the public free of charge. [12]

Education and training[edit]

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,[13] refer their grant applicants and grantees to Foundation Center for further assistance in finding funding.

Foundation Center training focuses on three content areas: Fundraising, Organizational Sustainability, and Leadership & Management. The types of trainings offered are: live in-person trainings, live webinars, live-streamed events, self-paced eLearning courses, and recorded webinars. Foundation Center also offers custom trainings in consultation with organizations of all shapes and sizes. All trainings, both live and recorded, can be found on GrantSpace, Foundation Center's learning portal for the social sector [14].


Foundation Center analyzes and interprets the data it 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.[15] Specific recent research projects look at capacity building, human rights funding, funding for U.S. democracy, and funding for disaster relief and recovery.

Other activities[edit]

Philanthropy News Digest (PND) is a daily news service of the Foundation Center. The PND newsletter is published on Tuesdays.[16]

Ask Us is an online reference service powered by real Foundation Center staffers, who answer questions in realtime using chat/instant messenger, as well as email.[17]

Collaboration Hub is a database offering full-text vetted collaboration stories submitted to the LodeStar Foundation's Collaboration Prize competition, held in 2011 and 2015. Over 650 case studies can be searched and reviewed for the benefit of journalists, funders, nonprofit organizations, and others wishing to learn about best practices, pitfalls, and forms of collaboration, from shared services to mergers. [18]


  1. ^ About Us, Foundation Center web site
  2. ^ Foundation Center. "2015 Annual Report." New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2017.
  3. ^ "Bradford K Smith Selected New President Of The Foundation Center Archived 2012-11-27 at the Wayback Machine," NonProfit Times, May 21, 2008.
  4. ^ Paynter, Ben (2019-02-05). "GuideStar and the Foundation Center are merging to form the definitive nonprofit transparency organization". Fast Company. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  5. ^ Foundation Center. " Press Release." New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2010.
  6. ^ Carnegie Corporation of New York. Annual Report 2002-2003 Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine, page 21, Report of the President "Transparency and Accomplishment: A Legacy of Glass Pockets," by Vartan Gregorian, 2003.
  7. ^ "Russell Sage Foundation. Celebrating 100 Years of Social Science Research: Russell Sage Foundation 1907-2007," p. 5, 2007.
  8. ^ Andrews, F. Emerson. Foundation Watcher, page 181. Franklin and Marshall College, 1973.
  9. ^ Foundation Center. “40th Anniversary: A Retrospective.” Foundation Center, 1996.
  10. ^ Internal Foundation Center correspondence between Foundation Center and Regional Foundation Library in Austin, TX., between March 4, 1960 and January 10, 1969.
  11. ^ Internal data from Foundation Center, retrieved March 30, 2015
  12. ^ Foundation Center's Funding Information Network site. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  13. ^ Additional Grant Seeking Resources for Organizations, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation web site
  14. ^ GrantSpace: Training page retrieved August 27, 2018.
  15. ^ "Foundation Giving in ’08 Defied Huge Asset Decline," by Stephanie Strom, New York Times, March 30, 2009.
  16. ^ "About Philanthropy News Digest". Philanthropy News Digest. Foundation Center. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  17. ^ "Ask Us on GrantSpace". GrantSpace Ask Us. Foundation Center. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  18. ^ "Collaboration Hub on GrantSpace". Collaboration Hub. Foundation Center. Retrieved August 27, 2018.

External links[edit]