84 Years of Giving from the Danforth Foundation

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!

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One Response to 84 Years of Giving from the Danforth Foundation

  1. Monica says:

    I would like to thank this remarkable family and their ancestors for producing such magnanimous and philanthropic individuals who created a deep humanitarian awareness in the lives of all those whom they touched. The goal to promote the well-being of mankind and to help people be at their “very best, all the time.” is an enormous task indeed.
    I myself was never a recipient of the Danforth Fellowship program however in the early 1970s I was recommended for such a program by a professor from Fordham University who believed in my abilities, talents and life goals. I was very excited as any young woman might be at the prospect of becoming part of such a vast organization whose determination to shape the history and future of our great nation began with individuals such as me. The Danforth family’s giving and restoring hope for the future and a better world by providing opportunity and amplifying the voice of those who might otherwise go unheard is the fulfillment of a calling inspired by great faith. Although the decision to close the doors on an organization that has championed the promotion of all that is good in mankind regardless of social, economic or ethnic qualifiers, the works of this family with its hopes and dreams for a superior future through a deeper understanding of public duty, ambition and goals will continue to live on in the lives of those who have been provided by them with the means to lead others.
    It was my desire to one day become a part of the Danforth family of champions and lend whatever talents I was given to their vision and I am deeply saddened to see this beacon of hope extinguished, especially in the midst of these uncertain and shifting times. I would have considered it an honor to have helped turn the tide towards hope and faith in one another once again in spite of the under currents of political and social unrest. I have silently shared your vision for empowering parents to become the first and most important teachers of their children and providing them with parent educational services. I do deeply believe that the Danforth family had not only a vision and heart for providing for the future of humanity at large but they provided the legs, feet and voice that could carry this vision and message of hope motivating and cheering others on to imitate their bravery in doing good works. This message of inspiration has not been quenched by the adversity of our times. I have faith that the Danforth family’s calling to excellence will carry on and continue to inspire individuals, institutions and communities to act reasonably and become part of our future national and international consciousness causing us to become a more loving world.
    Respectfully,
    Monica

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