Foundation Center Historical Foundation Collection
Welcome to the Archives of the Foundation Center Historical Foundation Collection
The Foundation Center was created in 1956 during a period of particularly intense public scrutiny of foundations. Its mission then and today is to collect and disseminate accurate information about foundation activity so as to hold foundations accountable to the public. The roughly 6000 foundations for which the Foundation Center collected information in 1956 had grown to over 68,000 annually.
Due to the creation and dissolution of hundreds of foundations each year, the Historical Foundation Collection contains information on approximately 100,000 foundations.
The Form 990-PFs Series is the largest component of the collection. It consists of over 1.7 million federal tax filings, most commonly referred to as the Form 990-PF. This series consists of copies of the tax filings of virtually every foundation from the early 1960s through 1997. Included in each filing are detailed statements of assets, receipts, and grant disbursements of individual foundations. The Foundation Center routinely collected this information for purposes of issuing its annual directories, usually by purchasing the IRS-produced aperture cards containing microfiche of the Form 990-PFs. Thus the only extant collection of the Form 990-PFs resides at IUPUI where, as noted above, they have proved to be valuable historical documents to a sizable number of researchers.
Due to the large size of this series, a detailed index of the holdings is not available. To see if the Archives holds the information you need, please submit a research request to the Archives. The staff will check the holdings and assist in arranging your onsite visit or copying request.
The Annual Reports series, consists of copies of annual reports from nearly 4,000 foundations throughout the United States, including the first annual reports to be issued by a foundation (the Peabody Education Fund) in 1867. Annual reports provide valuable narrative information about their grantmaking activity and operations, expanding upon the raw data of the Form 990-PFs.
The Historical Information Files series consists of correspondence, Foundation Center questionnaires and surveys, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, press releases, grant guidelines, and newsletters for thousands of foundations. These files document foundation activity and the way a foundation portrays itself to the public through their literature. This series is extremely valuable for its pre-1960 information. Before 1960, standards and accountability to the public were not yet established. With many foundations terminating every year these records are often the only information source for these foundations.