Five years ago, when the Foundation Center celebrated its 50th anniversary, we published a nifty time line that traced the history of the Foundation Center side by side with milestones in U.S. and world history. Take a look – it is quite wonderful!
The idea of change can sometimes be over-hyped. Even so, the last five years do seem to have brought very rapid shifts in the way the Foundation Center serves its mission – maybe I am wrong, but let's consider that…
Back then, in 2006 that is, we did not have blogs, not one. Now look at us! The Foundation Center communicates through eight blogs, including the Nonprofit Literature Blog, the first of our blogs to launch, PhilanTopic, our national blog of opinion and commentary that draws contributors from all over the country, and our libraries' blogs.
Back then, we did not tweet – no one did, of course. But now, you can hear us from San Francisco to New York – and in between too, in Cleveland, Atlanta, and Washington, DC! And the Foundation Center's main twitter account communicates the world over.
Foundations are tweeting and blogging, too! So Foundation Directory Online Professional now has a Social Media tab for feeds and links to this content.
Back then, we had one web site - foundationcenter.org, which I've always loved (even before I worked here). Now, in GrantSpace, we've started a new web site dedicated to nonprofit grantseekers and to forming an online community and offering a "a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector".
Back then, we did little training online. Now, our full curriculum of free classes is available in the form of webinars, with classes conducted by the same wonderful instructors who lead onsite classes in our five learning centers.
Back then, we did not have dedicated web site on transparency in philanthropy. Now, Glasspockets opens the world of foundations and philanthropy to all.
Back then, though we focused our training and reference work on the topic of collaboration, we did not have an online portal for it. Now, thanks to our partnership with the Lodestar Foundation, we maintain the Nonprofit Collaboration Database. Try it!
Back then, we had about 230 Cooperating Collections in the Foundation Center's network. Now, we have over 450 and have opened Cooperating Collections in nine countries. This network of libraries, service organizations, and community foundations provide funding information and training, as well as access to the Center's databases and core publications, to nonprofits all over the U.S. and in an ever-growing number of countries.
Back then, we did not have the highlighted text below as part of our mission:
To strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy in the U.S. and around the world.
Now, we do, and our data collection and dissemination will expand and become more international in scope. This not only serves to widen our audience, but also to inspire an open flow of information about philanthropy and global needs. Our data is also being put to greater use in our new mapping tool, Philanthropy In/Sight®, which maps the impact of (and shows the need for) philanthropy around the world.
On December 10, 1956, the Foundation Library Center, as we were known at first, opened its doors to with the goal of collecting, organizing, and making available to the public "reports and information" about foundations. An article in The New York Times heralded the beginning as "an important event in the history of American philanthropy … it can and should do a great deal to forward the cause of 'full disclosure' in a field where it is needed." (NYT, 12/11/1956).
As Foundation Center president, Brad Smith wrote in announcing "Foundation Center 2020", our 10-year strategic plan, "If you believe, as we do, that philanthropy is an engine for positive social change, then please join us in our effort to nurture it, to support and advance the work of those around the world who transform lives and make the world a better place."
Happy fifty-fifth anniversary, Foundation Center!
Foundation Center-New York