From Our President


How many times have you heard the success of an organization described in terms of a bigger budget, more staff, or larger office space? As indicators, those all tell us something but miss what is most critical. In a world of deep technological and societal transformation, as important as it may be for organizations to grow, it is essential that they evolve.

Foundation Center was born in 1956, in the wake of McCarthy era hearings investigating foundations for alleged support of un-American activities. Conceived as a means to combat suspicion and innuendo about philanthropy with public information, its very creation ignited an evolutionary spark that has propelled our field forward ever since. Foundation Center published the first print directory of American foundations in 1960, then created a classification system that enabled successive generations of grantseekers, scholars, journalists and foundations themselves, to understand the work of a rapidly expanding philanthropic sector. In 1994, Foundation Center launched its first website, when only four foundations had websites of their own. Five years later, Foundation Center’s print directory became Foundation Directory Online, the most widely used database of foundations and their grants in the world. Today’s Foundation Center is a global resource for trusted data, insight, and analysis of the many ways in which, through philanthropy, private wealth is contributing to the public good.

The following pages describe how Foundation Center evolved even further in 2016. In a historic milestone for our organization, we fully launched a new database system that had been years in the making. As part of this effort, we used data science techniques to machine code more than two million foundation grants around the world by subject, beneficiary population, strategy, geographic location and other characteristics. We then employed this same technology to code all the content—including blogs, news stories, research reports, and more—so users can quickly search the entire Foundation Center through our main website,—to find exactly the information they need. And this wealth of highly curated information is fueling a new generation of Foundation Landscape sites that focus on youth giving, the sustainable development goals, and the critical issues of our time.

Foundation Center’s evolution continues to be a story of transparency, technology, and talent. Our team, whether they be writing computer code, teaching a class on proposal writing, or designing a new website, is the key to our success. Philanthropy is an engine for positive social change worldwide and at Foundation Center, we’re using the latest data, technology, and analysis to help those doing good be strategic. The world needs the nearly seven million people, online and in-person, who depended on us in 2016 to succeed.

Insuring that Foundation Center provides the knowledge they need requires constant evolution. That is my commitment to Foundation Center and our commitment to you.


Bradford K. Smith, President