Rockefeller Brothers Fund Timeline

1940s: Beginning at the Brink of War

In its first decade, the Fund’s largest combined giving was to war relief and reconstruction worldwide.

In 1942, when Sanger’s Birth Control Federation of America joined the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the RBF began its own support for the organization.

The RBF began supporting Memorial Hospital in 1946, just as the Sloan Kettering Institute, dedicated to biomedical research on cancer, was established next door.

1950s: The Fund at Mid-Century

By the early 1950s, the Fund had an endowment for the first time, it began operating its own programs, and used these to respond to world events with more experimental initiatives.

The Council approached population through basic medical research, effective and affordable contraceptives, educational outreach, technical assistance, professional training, and long-term planning studies.

1970s: Decade of Disquiet

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.

1980s: Global Interdependence

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.

Support for the New York City Partnership became one of the Fund’s primary means of expressing its commitment to New York City in the 1980s.

From 1986-1989, the RBF made grants to the Fund for the City of New York to support its work cultivating and coordinating private sector leadership in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

1990s: Changing Geopolitics and Civil Society

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.

2000s: Globalization’s Discontents

The years since 2000 have witnessed rapid and chaotic trends in globalization as well as violent regional conflicts with devastating immediate consequences and far-reaching global effects.

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.