Sara Lee Foundation (SLF)

Sara Lee Foundation (SLF)


* Assets: $112,916 (2011)
* Grants Received: $1,890,060 (2011)
* Grants Awarded: $1,690,488 (2011)
* Defunct since 2012

Established by the Sara Lee Corporation in 1981, the Sara Lee Foundation (SLF) was an independent legal entity governed by its own board of directors. The Sara Lee Corporation’s policy was to give nonprofit organizations at least 2 percent of its U.S. pre-tax income each year through cash and product donations. Many of these corporate-wide donations were distributed through SLF. In 2003, for example, some $6.5 million of the Sara Lee Corporation’s $29 million in grants were awarded via the Foundation.

SLF focused its philanthropy primarily on groups based in the city of Chicago, the site of the Corporation’s headquarters, though the Foundation also gave to numerous organizations elsewhere in the United States and around the world. Identifying its areas of concern as Women’s Issues, Hunger, Homelessness, Job Training, and Arts & Culture. SLF placed an especially high “priority on programs aimed at improving the lives of women, who comprise the majority of Sara Lee Corporation’s consumers and employees.” Viewing the United States as a nation rife with discrimination against “women and communities of color,” SLF sought to strike a blow against such perceived injustice by “directing special attention” to these “underserved and diverse populations.”

The Sara Lee Foundation administered two principal Giving Programs:

Through its Cultural Program, SLF directed at least 40% of its philanthropy each year to arts & culture organizations whose activities were geared toward “reaching Chicago’s diverse population.” While the Foundation did award some grants to major, world-renowned cultural institutions, its first priority was to help local, community-based groups specializing in music, dance, theater, visual arts, literature, media, performance art, public art, architecture, or culture and the humanities. In order to qualify for a grant, a group was required to demonstrate its commitment to “diversity,” meaning that a substantial proportion of its leaders and employees had be nonwhite.

The Community Initiatives Program, meanwhile, focused on issues related to “hunger and homelessness, job skills, and developing the full potential of women in our society.” Virtually all grants made through this program were earmarked for social service organizations in Chicago that worked with “underserved populations of need.” One of the program’s main objectives was to fund groups whose aim was to “reduce the barriers to equal opportunity” that allegedly pervaded American society.

Among the more noteworthy beneficiaries of Sara Lee Foundation grants were such groups as: the Mexican-American Legal Defense & Education Fund, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, the National Urban League, and the Sierra Club Foundation.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Sara Lee Foundation, click here.

SLF is no longer active. By 2012, it had no remaining assets.

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

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