- Assets: $806,158 (2005)
- Grants Awarded: $311,500 (2005)
Philip M. Stern (grandson of Sears, Roebuck & Company Chairman Julius Rosenwald) established the Stern Family Fund -- arranging for it to be endowed immediately upon his death, which occurred in 1992. In the tradition of his grandfather, Stern stipulated that his Foundation should cease operations within a generation after his death, so as to prevent it from someday, under the leadership of his successors, embracing philanthropic priorities inconsistent with his particular values and ideals. In accordance with his wish, the Stern Family Fund is expected to spend all of its assets before the year 2015, at which time it will close its doors forever. "We inherited this belief from my great-grandfather," says David Stern, son of Philip and current President of the Stern Family Fund. "Foundations [typically] become almost more interested in their own preservation than in doing the social change work they were set up to do." David Stern is also a member of Equal Justice Works, a public interest law organization representing myriad leftist organizations.
The Stern Family Fund states that its mission is “to [aid] citizens striving to guarantee responsiveness of public and private institutions that wield substantial power over their lives.” Reasoning from the premise that American society is rife with economic and social injustice, the Fund directs its philanthropy toward:
- Systemic reform efforts that attack the root causes of societal problems rather than providing direct services to individuals and communities in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of these problems
- Projects that strive for a more equitable distribution of political and economic power (i.e., projects favoring such initiatives as racial gerrymandering and wealth redistribution)
- Action-oriented projects with the potential for significant regional and national impact.
The Stern Family Fund oversees two distinct grant-making programs. One, called Public Interest Pioneers, provides large grants that serve as seed money for the creation of new organizations or the development of new projects within existing organizations. The second, called the Strategic Opportunity program, provides smaller grants to aid existing groups that have specific and immediate financial needs.
Specifically, Stern Family Fund grants are earmarked for: government and corporate accountability projects; campaign finance reform initiatives; efforts to bring about proportional [racial, ethnic, and gender] representation in the workplace; voter registration drives; efforts to prevent corporate exploitation of tax incentives and subsidy programs; radical environmentalism; remedies for the allegedly inequitable allocation of legal services; farm worker organizing; Freedom of Information Act lawsuits; community legal advocacy; and investigative reporting.
The Fund’s Executive Director is Elizabeth Collaton, Senior Policy Analyst for Pollution Prevention and Waste Reduction at the Northeast-Midwest Institute in Washington, D.C.
Among the many recent recipients of Stern Family Fund grants are: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); the Center for Media and Democracy; Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action; the San Francisco Foundation Community Initiative Funds (for MoveOn.org); the Proteus Fund; Public Citizen; the Public Justice Foundation; and the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Stern Family Fund, click here.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)