American Express Foundation

organization

Overview

  • Assets: $34,575,098 (2014)
  • Grants Received: $50,420,000 (2014)
  • Grants Awarded: $19,272,925 (2014)

Incorporated in 1954, the American Express Foundation (AEF) is the philanthropic arm of the American Express Corporation. While many of AEF’s grants are non-political in nature, a substantial number are awarded to organizations that promote left-wing agendas. The Foundation’s philanthropy is divided into three major programs:

(1) The Serving Communities Program (SCP) supports nonprofit groups that promote volunteerism among citizens generally and — through the Serve2Gether project — American Express employees in particular. One particularly noteworthy SCP initiative is the Disaster Relief Project, which focuses on the delivery of humanitarian aid to victims of wildfires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural as well as man-caused disasters. From 2004-14, American Express and its Foundation provided assistance for victims of more than 50 disasters in 35 countries — mainly by means of donations to the American Red Cross, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and the United Nations World Food Program. SCP’s motto is a quote by Children’s Defense Fund creator Marian Wright Edelman: “Service is the rent we pay for living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”

(2) The Preserving Places Program gears its philanthropy toward “projects that help communities preserve or rediscover major historic landmarks and public spaces,” with an emphasis on “sites that represent diverse cultures.” In pursuit of this objective, American Express in 1995 was the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Watch program, which “draws attention to cultural heritage sites around the world threatened by neglect, vandalism, armed conflict, commercial development, natural disasters and climate change.” Moreover, AEF has long been a major ally of the World Monuments Fund, a private, international, non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of such sites across the globe.[1]  Between 1974 and 2018, American Express and its Foundation contributed over $65 million to preserve more than 525 iconic historic sites in dozens of countries. Among these were St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Temple of Hercules in Rome, the former city of Sawara in Japan’s Kanto region, the Route 66 highway corridor that runs between Chicago and Los Angeles, the Chilean territory of Easter Island, and the Ruta de la Amistad in Mexico City.

In 2006, AEF joined forces with the National Trust for Historic Preservation — a nonprofit entity dedicated to protecting and restoring America’s historic landmarks and communities — to form “Partners in Preservation.” Over the next 12 years, American Express and its Foundation contributed more than $20 million to help support nearly 200 historic sites in places like San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, the Twin Cities, New York and Washington, DC.

(3) The Developing Leaders Program (DLP) provides funding for organizations that aim to identify and cultivate “future nonprofit leaders” — especially nonwhites from “diverse communities” — by teaching them a wide variety of “personal, business and leadership skills.” Between 2008-18, American Express and its Foundation invested nearly $70 million to “develop more than 70,000 social purpose leaders … tackling some of society’s most complex issues.” A signature initiative of DLP is the American Express Leadership Academy, a global program that trains leaders in the areas of education, the arts, social services, health, and the environment. Between 2008-18, AEF hosted 112 Leadership Academy programs that trained more than 3,500 nonprofit and social sector leaders in 11 countries.

In November 2011, AEF co-hosted — with the Obama administration’s Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships and Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation — a forum focusing on “the critical need for strong leaders in the nonprofit sector.” American Express and its Foundation place a strong emphasis on “employee-driven philanthropy,” where people who work for the company are encouraged to engage in community service. Moreover, the company and Foundation administer a “gift matching program” that in 2014 generated more than $6.67 million in funds to match charitable donations made by employees.

A key division of AEF’s Office of Corporate Social Responsibility is its Office of Environmental Responsibility, whose mission is to “take an objective look at the practices throughout our company and identify areas in which we can become more environmentally friendly.” On the premise that carbon emissions associated with human industrial activity contribute heavily to what AEF views as the potentially catastrophic phenomenon of global warming, the Foundation in 2007 made a commitment to “reduce our carbon footprint by 10 percent” within five years.

In 2018, American Express announced that the company would soon join forces with Strive For College (a national nonprofit that helps students navigate the college-admissions and financial-aid-application process) and UStrive Inc. (the virtual mentoring platform of Strive For College). This alliance was aimed at helping “underserved youth” across the United States gain access to a college education. American Express not only committed $500,000 to the initiative, but also pledged to engage hundreds of its staffers and leaders as mentors to the the young people served by the program. “We are proud to partner with Strive for College and UStrive Inc. on this impactful initiative, said AEF president  Timothy McClimon.

Mr. McClimon also serves as the American Express Company’s vice president for corporate social responsibility. Prior to joining American Express, he had been the executive director of both the AT&T Foundation and the Second Stage Theatre in New York City.

Among the noteworthy left-wing beneficiaries of AEF grants are the Aspen Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Women’s Policy Studies, the Children’s Defense Fund, Earth Share, Greenpeace, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the National Council of La Raza, the National Organization for Women‘s Legal Defense & Education Fund, the National Urban League, Planned Parenthood, and the Urban Institute.

To view a list of additional AEF grantees, click here.

(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)

Further Reading:The American Express Foundation: An Inside Look with President Tim McClimon” (Forbes, 5-17-2012); “American Express Corporate Responsibility Grants” (Instrumentl.com); “American Express Foundation Supports Charities Globally” (ClearLearnGrants.com, 2-19-2015); “American Express Announces $500,000 Commitment to Strive for College and UStrive Inc.” (BusinessWire.com, 5-31-2018).

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