At the end of May 2011, the Danforth Foundation will close its doors after 84 years of giving to the nation and the St. Louis community. The private, independent Foundation was established by William H. Danforth, the founder of the Ralston Purina Co., and his family in 1927. When William H. Danforth established his family Foundation, he did so “for charitable and humanitarian purposes and to promote the well-being of mankind.” The goal, he said, was to help people be at their “very best, all the time.”
The Danforth Foundation was one of the founding members of the Gateway Center for Giving (formerly known as MAP- Metropolitan Association of Philanthropy) just over 40 years ago. The current Executive Director of the Foundation, Peter Sortino, took the time to meet with a group of the Center’s Family Foundation Members this week to tell the story of the Foundation and the reasons behind the decision to ultimately spend-down. See below for a brief overview of the Foundation’s history. Click here for the full history.
The Foundation evolved over the years but its history basically fell into two phases. From its inception through 1996, the Foundation concerned itself primarily with education, on a national scope. Beginning in 1997, the Foundation narrowed its geographic focus to the region where it was always based, St. Louis, and eventually chose three main areas there in which to concentrate its efforts: the development of the plant and life sciences, neighborhood redevelopment, and downtown revitalization.
Over its long history, the Danforth Foundation awarded more than $1.2 billion in more than 4,700 grants. More importantly, it directly touched the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, and, through its efforts in the plant and life sciences in its second phase, held out the prospect of touching millions more around the globe.
The St. Louis community will miss having the Danforth Foundation around to help advance philanthropy in our region but there is no doubt that the legacy that the Foundation leaves behind will be remembered long after its doors are closed. Thank you for your 40 years of membership with the Gateway Center for Giving!