Sebastian Kresge's instructions to the incorporating trustees were set forth in brief terms. The foundation's income was to be used "to promote the well-being of mankind."
Sebastian S. Kresge established the S.S. Kresge Company in 1899 with $8,000 and half ownership of two five-and-ten cent stores. During the next twenty years he devoted all his energy to the growth and development of that company. By the end of that period, he had developed a very profitable chain of stores. A strong religious upbringing made Sebastian Kresge a thrifty and caring individual with an increasing sense of responsibility to return to society a major portion of his already sizeable wealth. To commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of his company, he established the Kresge Foundation in 1924 through an initial gift of $1.3 million. By the time of his death, at the age of 99 in 1966, Sebastian Kresge had made additional personal gifts totaling more than $60 million.
The foundation's early recipient institutions were located primarily in the northeastern quarter of the United States, because the initial trustees felt it was appropriate to support institutions which were situated in the region where the S.S. Kresge Company had flourished. It is important to emphasize, however, that this is no longer the case and that the foundation is not affiliated or associated with the former S.S. Kresge Company, now known as the Kmart Corporation, or any other corporation.
The foundation's basic policies have stood the test of subsequent examination and have continued to the present day. These broad policies provide that foundation grants be confined to established charitable institutions, without limitation as to field of interest or location. Specifically, foundation assistance is directed to the maintenance or expansion of those institutions rather than for program or operating support. The rather natural outgrowth of this latter policy led to the foundation's central and continuing focus in the area of bricks and mortar.
Initially, grants were made on an outright basis. Over the years, however, the concept evolved of awarding grants to institutions on a conditional or challenge basis — thereby providing an incentive to help them expand their fundraising capabilities. By the early 1960s, the challenge concept had become a formal component of the foundation's policies.
Since its establishment, the foundation has awarded a total of 7,485 grants for $1.459 billion.
Purpose of Site:
The purpose of the Kresge Foundation Web site is to disseminate information about the foundation's grantmaking programs, as well as its vision and history.
The design of Kresge Foundation Web site is elegant and clear, allowing for easy navigability and ease of use. The foundation's grantmaking programs are clearly laid out and easily accessible. Visitors can download grant applications from each program page.