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The Foundation Center Turns 55!

December 09, 2011

(The following post was written by Inés Sucre, reference/outreach librarian at the Foundation Center-New York.)

FC_LogoFive years ago, when the Foundation Center celebrated its 50th anniversary, we published a nifty timeline that looked at the history of the center side by side with milestones in U.S. and world history. Take a look -- it's quite wonderful!

The idea of change can sometimes be over-hyped. Even so, the last five years do seem to have brought rapid shifts in the way the Foundation Center serves its mission. Maybe I'm wrong, but consider that…

Back then, in 2006, we didn't have any 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, a blog of opinion and commentary that draws contributors from all over the country; and our field office/library blogs.

Back then, we didn't tweet -- no one did. But today we're tweeting from our offices in San Francisco and New York -- and lots of places in between, too, like Cleveland, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. And our main Twitter feed (@fdncenter) has more than 15,000 followers, from all over the world!

Of course, foundations are tweeting and blogging as well. So Foundation Directory Online Professional now has a Social Media tab for feeds and links to all this great content.

Back then, we had one Web site -- foundationcenter.org, which I've always loved (even before I worked here). Now, in GrantSpace, we have a new site dedicated to nonprofit grantseekers, to forging an online community, and to offering a "a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector."

Back then, we did very 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 classes in our five learning centers.

Back then, we didn't have a standalone Web site to promote greater transparency in philanthropy. Today, Glasspockets opens the world of foundations and philanthropy to all.

Back then, although we focused our training and reference work on the topic of collaboration, we didn't have an online portal dedeicated to it. Now, thanks to our partnership with the Lodestar Foundation, we maintain the Nonprofit Collaboration Database. Check it out!

Back then, we had about 230 Cooperating Collections in our Cooperating Collections network. Today, we have over 450 and have even opened Cooperating Collections in nine countries. This network of libraries, service organizations, and community foundations provides funding information and training -- as well as access to the center's databases and core publications -- to nonprofits across the U.S. and in an ever-growing number of countries.

Back then, we didn't have the highlighted text below as part of our mission statement:

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 efforts are being expanded and becoming more international in scope. This not only serves to broaden the audience for our servces and publications, it also helps to inspire an open flow of information about global 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 then, opened its doors 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 that 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" (New York TImes, 12/11/1956).

As Foundation Center president Brad Smith wrote in announcing Foundation Center 2020, our new 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!

-- Inés Sucre

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