Case Studies: Theory of the Foundation

As part of a previous phase of the Theory of the Foundation initiative, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors interviewed a number of participating foundations to explore the nature of their Charters, Social Compacts and Operating Capabilities and how these concepts inform and impact how they operate as organizations. The featured case studies illustrate the Philanthropy Framework in action and provide a useful lens for introspection and peer learning. We are grateful to all Theory of the Foundation participants for their support, insights and thought partnership in this important work.

“Rooted in faith and active in hope,” the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) believes that all people are worthy of the opportunity to live healthy lives. EHF pursues a holistic vision of health rooted in the community and it aims to transform people, institutions, and places to create healthy communities. The Foundation was founded in 2013 as a result of the transfer of St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

The Kresge Foundation is a multi-billion dollar private foundation based in southeastern Michigan that works nationally in the areas of arts and culture, Detroit [as a distinct programmatic focus, not solely geographic], education, environment, health, and human services. Established in 1924 by entrepreneur Sebastian Kresge with a mission “to promote human progress,” The Kresge Foundation today lives out that mandate through its work “to expand opportunities in America’s cities.”

Lumina Foundation (Lumina), founded in 2000 and based in Indianapolis, works nationally on increasing access and success for students who need education beyond high school. Lumina is an independent foundation formed from proceeds of the sale of a nonprofit student loan guarantor to a publicly traded student loan company.

Newman’s Own Foundation is an independent, private foundation formed in 2005 by Paul Newman to maintain his commitment to philanthropy. The Foundation has a unique relationship with public consumers through its promise to donate 100% of profits generated by the Newman’s Own company and any associated royalties to charity, and maintains the informal and adaptive style of Paul Newman in its operations and management.

The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation (the Foundation), based in San Francisco, was established in 1957 by Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. as a reflection of his personal commitment to ensuring a prosperous California. To this day Mr. Bechtel remains involved with the Foundation as Chair of the Board, and his daughter, Laurie Dachs, serves as President.

Founded in 1917, the New York City based Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States, guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.

The Wallace Foundation seeks to expand learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children and the vitality of the arts for everyone. Based in New York City, the Foundation traces its roots back more than half a century to the generosity of DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace, founders of The Reader’s Digest Association.

Wellcome describes itself as a “global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent” that supports scientists and researchers, takes on big problems, fuel imaginations, and sparks debate.  A testamentary foundation created in 1936 with assets from the estate of American-born Sir Henry Wellcome, Wellcome’s direct mandate from its founder is to fund “the advancement of medical and scientific research to improve mankind’s wellbeing.”