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Topical Resource Lists

Foundation History:
A Resource List

The Catalog of Nonprofit Literature contains hundreds of citations for resources documenting the history of foundations, philanthropy, and voluntarism, as well as the histories of individual foundations. Search under the subject headings Foundations--history, Philanthropy--history, or Voluntarism--history to review relevant citations. Histories of specific foundations can be located by searching the catalog with the name of the foundation as your subject, or by using the subject heading Foundations--institutional histories.

History of Foundations, Philanthropy, and Voluntary Giving

Andrews, F. Emerson. Philanthropy in the United States: History and Structure. New York: The Foundation Center, 1978.
Pamphlet presents a brief history of private foundations and philanthropy, emphasizing the structure and dimensions of the philanthropic world in the 1970s.

Bremner, Robert H. American Philanthropy. 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988.
In this second edition of Bremner's pioneering and classic work, the author traces the development of American philanthropy from the time of the Pilgrims to the 1980s. He examines the peculiarly American circumstances that gave rise to different expressions of philanthropy, such as voluntary poverty relief, social work and social services, foundations, and government programs. Includes a timeline of important dates and an annotated bibliography. Indexed.

Bremner, Robert H. Giving: Charity and Philanthropy in History. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1994.
Reviews attitudes toward philanthropy from the ancient world through the Middle Ages and into modern times, in comparative contexts.

Burlingame, Dwight F. (ed.) Philanthropy in America: a Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004.
More than 175 contributors provide essays on the people, organizations, and concepts of the nonprofit sector. Includes a timeline showing key events in the development of philanthropy in the United States.

Buxton, William J. (ed.) Patronizing the Public: American Philanthropy's Transformation of Culture, Communication, and the Humanities. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009.
Experts contribute chapters that explore the impact of American foundations in arts and culture with a focus on the period from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Dowie, Mark American Foundations: an Investigative History. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
An historical study of foundations and their work, concentrating on analyzing the grantmaking by larger philanthropies in the areas of science, health, environment, nutrition, energy, citizenship, and art. Dowie also looks at the relationship between American foundations and American democracy.

Ellis, Susan J. By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers. Philadelphia, PA: Energize, 2005.
Emphasizing the importance of voluntarism to democracy in America, this book provides an historical overview of the involvement of volunteers in "every area of American life," tracing their effect on institutions, professions, and social events.

Fleishman, Joel L. The Foundation: A Great American Secret--How Private Wealth is Changing the World. New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2007.
Fleishman's study is based on interviews with senior officers or trustees at 100 of the largest U.S. foundations. He explains how foundations operate in practice, some of the motivations for donors, and the unique--often paradoxical--place that foundations have in American society.

Friedman, Lawrence J. (ed.) Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Contents include: "Giving in America: From Charity to Philanthropy" by Robert A. Gross; "Protestant Missionaries: Pioneers of American Philanthropy" by Amanda Porterfield; "The Origins of Anglo-American Sensibility" by G. J. Barker-Benfield; "From Gift to Foundation: The Philanthropic Lives of Mrs. Russell Sage" by Ruth Crocker; "Curing Evils at Their Source: The Arrival of Scientific Giving" by Judith Sealander; "Missions to the World: Philanthropy Abroad" by Emily S. Rosenberg; "Failure and Resilience: Pushing the Limits in Depression and Wartime" by David C. Hammack; "Faith and Good Works: Catholic Giving and Taking" by Mary J. Oates; "Waging the Cold War in the Third World: The Foundations and the Challenges of Development" by Gary R. Hess; "Philanthropy, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Politics of Racial Reform" by Claude A. Clegg, III; "The Welfare State and the Careers of Public and Private Institutions Since 1945" by Peter D. Hall.

Gaudiani, Claire. The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American economy and Can Save Capitalism. New York, NY: Times Books, 2003.
The author examines the nature of the charity of Americans from the earliest days of the colonies to the present time. She distinguishes between "generosity as charity" and "generosity as investment," and builds upon her thesis that the latter type of giving is most typical and expressive of American values.

Holcombe, Randall G. Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2000.
The author posits that unlike the government and business sectors, foundations are accountable to no one. He notes that in recent times, foundations have funded analysis of public policy issues and ideas, rather than maintain the grantmaking modes of the earlier part of the twentieth century. Chapters are devoted to the history of foundations, the impact of various federal tax regulations over time, donor intent, trends in foundation giving, and the role of foundations in the economy, among other issues.

Keele, Harold M. and Joseph C. Kiger. Foundations. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1984.
Provides histories of the nation's 230 largest foundations (ca. 1981-82).

Kiger, Joseph C. Philanthropic Foundations in the Twentieth Century. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2000.
A comprehensive treatment of the growth of foundations in modern times, with a narrative of the worldwide historical antecedents to their growth. Details the numerous investigations of the field, including the Walsh Commission in 1915, the Cox Committee in 1952, the Patman Investigation that began in 1961, and the Filer Commission, whose results were published in 1977. Discusses the expansion of the field, the characteristics of governance and personnel, supervision by governmental bodies, international activities, and the development of the third sector abroad.

Kiger, Joseph C. Philanthropists and Foundation Globalization. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2008.
This volume presents a biographical-historical account of international giving by twenty-four well-known philanthropists including Andrew Carnegie, George Soros, and Bill Gates. A chapter of the book discusses foundation investigations and studies since 1912, citing examples where foundations were criticized for funding programs abroad. A section also chronicles foundation activities in Europe during the late twentieth century.

McCarthy, Kathleen D. American Creed: Philanthropy and the Rise of Civil Society, 1700-1865. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
McCarthy discusses the evolution and development of voluntary associations from the early days of the American colonies to the mid 1860s. In the process, she delves into the factors that influenced and encouraged the growth of the nonprofit sector, and the generosity of individuals that made possible its development.

Nielsen, Waldemar A. The Golden Donors: a New Anatomy of the Great Foundations. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2002.
This reprint of the original 1985 edition examines the histories of America's 36 largest foundations in the 1980s. After setting up the political and social context for their development and operation, Nielsen takes an often critical look at each foundation's programs and social impact.

Parmar, Inderjeet. Foundations of the American Century: the Ford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller Foundations in the Rise of American Power. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2011.
This book offers a detailed examination of U.S. foundations' role in the development of U.S. foreign policy, focusing on the "Big 3" (Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie). Chapters examine how these philanthropic organizations advanced American interests and influenced foreign policy in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Schneewind, J. B. (ed.) Giving: Western Ideas of Philanthropy. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
Contributing historians of antiquity, the Middle Ages, early modern thought, and the Victorian era discuss the evolution of thinking about, and practice of, voluntary giving.

Zunz, Oliver. Philanthropy in America: a History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011.
The author offers an in-depth history of philanthropy in the United States, focusing on the convergence of big-money philanthropy and mass giving that sustained civil society initiatives in the 20th century. Zunz looks at the ways in which American philanthropy emerged as a means to foster independent investigation, problem solving, and the greater good; argues that American giving allowed the U.S. to export its ideals abroad after World War II; and examines federal tax policies that unified the nonprofit sector.

History of Company-Sponsored Foundations

Andrews, F. Emerson. Corporation Giving. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1993.
This reprint of the original 1952 classic, published by the Russell Sage Foundation, provides a concise history of corporate foundations in chapter 6.

Fremont-Smith, Marion R. Philanthropy and the Business Corporation. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 1972.
Chapter 2 includes a statistical analysis of growth of company-sponsored foundations.

Muirhead, Sophia A. Corporate Contributions: The View from 50 Years. New York, NY: Conference Board, 1999.
Provides a history of corporate philanthropy in the U.S. from the time when it was considered illegal to the present, dividing the growth into four developmental periods: "Prelegalization" (1870s to 1930s), "Innovation and Legalization" (1940s to 1950s), "Growth and Expansion" (mid-1950s to mid-1980s), and "Diversification and Globalization" (late 1980s to the present). Also suggests some of the challenges for the field in the coming decade. Details the history of matching gifts programs and in-kind giving. With bibliographic references.

History of Community Foundations

Council on Foundations. Community Foundation Training Manual I: Mission and History. Washington, DC: Council on Foundations, 1990.
Pages 1-23 discuss the development and structure of community foundations.

Magat, Richard, ed. An Agile Servant: Community Leadership by Community Foundations. New York: The Foundation Center, 1989.
Chapters 4 and 5 give a history of community foundations, with particular emphasis on the leaders who established them.

Foundation Center Bibliographies

Kiger, Joseph C. Historiographic Review of Foundation Literature: Motivations and Perceptions. New York: The Foundation Center, 1987.
Provides a chronological narrative review of book-length works about independent foundations, (such as histories and biographies of philanthropists), as well as publications from pertinent government agencies, and works published by privately organized bodies.

Layton, Daphne Niobe. Philanthropy and Voluntarism: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: The Foundation Center, 1987.
Includes references to both monographs and periodical literature. Pages 75-131 deal with foundations, bequests, and corporate philanthropy; pages 133-142 cover volunteering. Includes 1,614 citations, of which 244 have abstracts.

In addition, the Council on Foundations offers an abbreviated history of the philanthropic tradition in the United States.
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