The Council approached population through basic medical research, effective and affordable contraceptives, educational outreach, technical assistance, professional training, and long-term planning studies.
Despite intergenerational conflicts, the Fund responded to the concerns of the era with programs in equal opportunity, urban problems, U.S. Southern development, the environment, and fostering the health of the private sector.
Founded in 1901 as the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Rockefeller University is one of the earliest institutions established by Rockefeller family philanthropy. In 1978, the Fund made a $15 million capital grant to RU to help assure its ultimate independence from Rockefeller family support.
The 1980s saw the Fund focusing on issues at home and abroad in the areas of agricultural reform, post-apartheid democracy in South Africa, and nuclear non-proliferation. In New York City, it worked on the social toll of AIDS, affordable housing, sustainable urban development, and public education.
The 1990s witnessed the fall of two seemingly entrenched political orders: Communist regimes in the Eastern bloc and apartheid in South Africa. These seismic geopolitical shifts both invited the Fund’s response and reaffirmed its existing involvement in both regions.
As part of RBF's response to the AIDS epidemic in New York City, in 1991 the Fund gave grants to the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and the Latino Commission on AIDS. At the time, 91 percent of children with AIDS and 85 percent of infected women were either black or Latino.
By 2000, HIV/AIDS was affecting the Fund’s work to improve basic education in South Africa. Consequently, in 2003, the RBF shifted its South African grantmaking strategy from basic education to respond to the pandemic and its impact.