From Our President and Board of Trustees Chair

President image


Inside/Out may seem an odd choice for the theme of an annual report, but it has everything to do with the mission of Foundation Center and the way we work. That mission—to strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy in the U.S. and around the world—compels us to marshal technology and talent inside to serve the needs of you, our many stakeholders, out in the real world.

Key to Foundation Center’s approach is an uncompromising belief in the integrity of information and everything we do to make sure foundations, nonprofits, researchers, journalists, and others can trust what they find in a Foundation Center database, report, or web portal. Commitment to trust comes from a time not unlike today when societies were sharply divided, civic discourse was in tatters, and accusation and innuendo undermined people’s belief in facts and institutions. That was in 1950s America and philanthropic foundations themselves came under attack for alleged support of communism. Their response was let the outside public, inside what many saw as the closed world of foundations. To do so, they created Foundation Center, a public information service for philanthropy and our commitment to transparency continues today in the #OpenforGood Campaign described in the following pages, which encourages foundations to openly share their knowledge.

Foundation Center is best-known for Foundation Directory Online (FDO), a powerful database platform employed the world over by universities and nonprofits to search for foundation grants. In 2017, we listened to our users to understand what was right with the product, what was wrong, and their pain points. Inside, we mobilized a team of some twenty coders, designers, data scientists, and marketing specialists to create the new FDO. For too long, we had expected users to master the taxonomy with which we classify grants (more than 1300 terms!) and use dropdown menus to find their way. Now, all you need to do is type in a sentence describing what you are looking for and hit the “search” button. This and other FDO improvements took a calendar full of technology “sprints”—one-week intensive drives to build working solutions—and advanced technology involving natural language processing and other tools.

Learn more on taxonomy >

“We own the complexity to make sure that social sector organizations have access to the resources and knowledge needed to succeed in an increasingly challenging world.”

Bradford K. Smith, president

FDO illustrates our approach in virtually everything you will read about in this annual report and represents Foundation Center today. Whether it be deepening and professionalizing our Funding Information Network of more than 430 affiliate organizations, serving the needs of community foundations through CF Insights, or galvanizing a movement dedicated to ethics and standards through the Global Philanthropy Data Charter, we own the complexity to make sure that social sector organizations have access to the resources and knowledge needed to succeed in an increasingly challenging world.

See more on FDO improvements >
Find a FIN near you >

Our talented staff listen, learn, design, launch, and listen again. The goal is to engage with you, the user, to constantly improve Foundation Center’s products and services. Stay tuned for coming attractions in 2018: expansion of Foundation Center’s partnerships more tools and resources for community philanthropy, and new information about philanthropy in some of the world’s most dynamic countries.

“I love sending grantees to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library – Central Library, part of the Funding Information Network.”
Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, board of trustees chair

Before closing, we would like to say a word about governance. Conveying how vital the work of the social sector is to our world is a responsibility that we take very seriously. We know that being a credible institution requires that inside Foundation Center our own governance must live up to the very best standards of the sector. Our Trustees represent a diverse cross-section of the foundation, nonprofit, and corporate sectors, domestically and internationally. They insure that Foundation Center stays on mission, uses its resources wisely, and continues to attract the talent needed to serve the social sector to the best of our ability.

For more on thought leadership, “The Diversity Bonus” Volume II of series “Our Compelling Interest,” edited by our trustee, Earl Lewis. Check it out >

We hope you enjoy reading about all that Foundation Center accomplished in 2017 and invite you to share any comments or questions you might have. Knowing what you need is the best way for Foundation Center to deliver on its mission.


Bradford K. Smith

Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker
Board of Trustees Chair
President and CEO,
Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo