The Rockefeller Foundation (RF) was established in 1913 by John D. Rockefeller, Sr., who amassed a vast fortune as the founder and developer of the Standard Oil Company. According to the Foundation’s current President, Gordon Conway, “Mr. Rockefeller gave us a broad mandate to further the “well-being of mankind throughout the world.”
RF’s philanthropy is directed toward five main program areas:
(a) Creativity and Culture: This program seeks “to give full expression to the creative impulses of individuals and communities in order to enhance the well-being of societies and better equip them to interact in a global and dynamic world.” Toward this end, the Foundation supports “new art forms, including dance, theatre, music, film and digital media, which promote cultural diversity, innovation and understanding across cultures.”
(b) Food Security: This program works to “improve the food security of the rural poor through the generation of agricultural technologies, institutions and policies that sustain livelihoods in areas of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia bypassed by the Green Revolution [a term used to describe the dramatic increases in the agricultural production of developing nations between the 1940s and 1960s].” According to RF, a root cause of food shortages worldwide is the “corporate dominance” that “limits access to agricultural technologies.”
In September 2006, RF collaborated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on a “Green Revolution Project” in Africa, aiming to “dramatically increase the productivity of small farms, moving tens of millions of people out of extreme poverty and significantly reducing hunger.” In pursuit of this objective, the Project addresses such issues as soil fertility, irrigation, farmer management practices, and farmer access to markets and financing. RF pledged $50 million toward this effort, while the Gates Foundation pledged $100 million.
(c) Health Equity: Founded on the premise that America values the well-being of minorities less than that of whites, this program seeks to “reduce avoidable and unfair differences in the health status of populations” within the U.S. It similarly aims to reduce such disparities internationally.
(d) Working Communities: The goal of this program is to “transform poor urban neighborhoods into working communities — safe, healthy and effective neighborhoods — by increasing the amount and quality of employment, improving the quality of all urban schools, and revitalizing poor neighborhoods through mixed-income community development.” In RF’s view, a principal “root cause” of poverty and violence is that “low-income and minority children attend schools that possess inadequate resources to ensure equal educational opportunity.” That assertion is contradicted, however, by the National Center for Education Statistics, which (according to Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom’s book America in Black and White) reports that “the higher the percentage of minority students in a school district, the higher the level of spending, even after differences in costs of living and other variables were held constant. Districts with a ‘minority majority’ … actually spent 15 percent more, on average, than districts in which minority enrollment was less than 5 percent.”
(e) Global Inclusion: This program is intended to “help broaden the benefits and reduce the negative impacts of globalization on vulnerable communities, families and individuals around the world.” According to the RF website: “Globalization is the product of world-wide revolutions in the technology of transportation, finance and especially information. It is in our time what industrialization was at the time of our founding: neither an intrinsically good or bad thing, but a pervasive and irreversible trend, with implications both beneficial and challenging. Globalization … spurs transitional conflict and sometimes exacerbates inequities … creating greater economic vulnerabilities for many and causing some people to fall farther behind.” To address this perceived problem, RF “works around the world to expand opportunities for poor or vulnerable people and to help ensure that globalization’s benefits are more widely shared.”
The Rockefeller Foundation is a member of the Peace and Security Funders Group, an association of individual philanthropists and foundations that give money to anti-war and environmentalist organizations. RF is also a member of the International Human Rights Funders Group, a network of more than six-dozen grantmakers dedicated to funding leftwing groups and causes.
In RF’s estimation, the United States is a nation rife with longstanding, ineradicable racial inequities. When the Foundation pledged $3 million for a “Rebuilding New Orleans” project a few days after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the Gulf Coast in August 2005, RF said: “Katrina exposed the city’s deepest flaws to the world, laying bare the grinding poverty and segregation that had created an entrenched and vulnerable population in New Orleans. Long before the last of the floodwaters were pumped out, it became apparent that while many neighborhoods were struck hard, low-income and minority communities had been hit the hardest, and faced the most formidable recovery prospects.”
Among the Rockefeller Foundation’s many hundreds of donees are: the Advancement Project; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Friends Service Committee; The American Prospect; Amnesty International; the Brennan Center for Justice; the Brookings Institution; the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; the Center for Community Change; the Center for Economic and Policy Research; the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles; the Council on Foundations; the Economic Policy Institute; Global Exchange; Greenpeace International; Human Rights First; Human Rights Watch; the Immigrant Workers Citizenship Project; the Institute for Policy Studies; the Islamic Circle of North America; La Raza Galeria Posada; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund; the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund; the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; the National Council of La Raza; the National Immigration Law Center; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the Neighborhood Funders Group; Oxfam America; Physicians for Human Rights; the Ploughshares Fund; the Public Citizen Foundation; the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund; Save the Children Fund; the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center; UNICEF; the Union of Concerned Scientists; the Urban Institute; and the World Resources Institute.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Rockefeller Foundation, click here.