Large Foundations Adjust Their Grantmaking In Response to September 11

Many large foundations have adjusted their grantmaking since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — not only to provide funding for the relief and recovery efforts but also to support organizations working to address long-term problems related to the attacks, the New York Times reports.

The giving comes at a time when many foundation endowments are shrinking due to the sluggish economy and falling stock prices. In September, for example, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, whose assets have fallen from a high of $4.5 billion to $3.8 billion, approved $5 million from a $30 million reserve fund to support activites related to 9/11 information gathering and dissemination activities, the protection of civil rights in the U.S., and the monitoring of the Afghan refugee situation.

"If you were going to try to eliminate difficulties with the antiterrorist legislation when it was enacted, it couldn't wait until January or March," said MacArthur Foundation president Jonathan Fanton. "Or if you were going to put observers on Afghanistan's borders to talk to refugees about human rights violations, you had to move quickly."

On the national security front, the Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York City has allocated $500,000 to fund projects such as the National Security Archive Fund's effort to research restrictions on public access to information for national security purposes. Similarly, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has told current grant recipients working in the area of emerging security threats and biological and nuclear weaponry that they can refocus their work in light of the attacks.

One of the biggest issues foundations are pursuing is how to combat conditions that seem to foster terrorism. Gordon Conway, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, maintains that terrorists garner an enormous amount of their support from people in poverty and said his organization would continue its efforts to ease poverty and hunger and provide health care worldwide, despite the foundation's plan to cut its grantmaking by at least five percent this year. In a similar vein, Ford Foundation president Susan Berresford cited an absence of democratic traditions and the limited flow of information in some cultures as a root cause of terrorism and predicted that in the future foundations would do more "to build open, democratic systems and to cultivate more open media systems around the world."

Karen W. Arenson. "At Differing Speeds, Foundations Adjust to a World Transformed" New York Times 11/12/2001.