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.

RBF gifts to United Service to China, a consortium of eight American agencies created to secure funds for relief and rehabilitation in China, followed naturally from the family’s long connection to the country.

Not only did all five brothers serve the war effort, together they recognized that its devastation would have far-reaching effects, and that postwar reconstruction needs would be enormous.

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 Fund expanded the Rockefeller family tradition of support for International House, an organization founded in 1924 that sought to provide positive cultural exchange for international students through social events and residential facilities.

Founded in 1953 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, the aim of The Agricultural Development Council was to strengthen the professional capacity of Asian countries to deal with the economic and human problems of agricultural and rural development.


Grants from the Fund went to Chilean earthquake relief, model schools and a primary education program in Chile, and agricultural reform, training, and development in Venezuela, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Brazil. 

The Asia Society was established in 1956 to increase American understanding of Asia and improve Asian-American cultural relations. The Fund’s long-term support for the Society began in 1956, its inaugural year.

In 1957, the Fund established the Ramon Magsaysay Awards to honor the late President of the Philippines, who died in a plane crash in March 1957.

In 1959, the Fund launched its West Africa program to provide technical assistance to Ghana and Nigeria for economic development.

1960s: Tradition and Tumult

Against a backdrop of political protest and social upheaval, the 1960s saw the RBF increase its endowment and make between $6 and $8 million in grants each year.

Established in 1965 by founding RBF trustee David Rockefeller, the CIAR was dedicated to fostering education, dialogue, and debate about the political, economic, and social issues facing Latin America, North America, and the Caribbean.

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.

The Fund was instrumental in the 1966 creation of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (NCUSCR), and supported the Committee from that point forward.

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.

Throughout the 1980s, the RBF supported the EWI program in U.S.-Soviet relations, providing much-needed general support that enabled it to bring together European, American, and Soviet specialists and officials in a collaborative environment.

In 1987 the Fund set aside $2 million designated for the Program for Asian Projects to be used for small grants furthering the work of the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees, a program of Asia wide awards the Fund had established in the Philippines in 1957.

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.

In 1990, the Fund sharpened its work in nuclear non-proliferation to focus on horizontal non-proliferation, with emphasis on extending the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, due for review in 1995; tightening nuclear export controls in Europe; and controlling surplus plutonium.

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.

Born out of a track II dialogue between the United States and Iran, initiated in 2002, and co-sponsored by the RBF and the United Nations Association of the USA, The Iran Project encourages and supports official bilateral U.S.-Iran relations and negotiations.

In 2003-2004, the RBF incubated the U.S. in the World initiative to enhance the communications capacity of foreign policy experts and advocates in advancing a vision of responsible global engagement.

Following from its own RBF Project on World Security, in the mid-2000s the Fund’s then-named Peace and Security program undertook a multi-pronged approach toward developing within the United States new interest in and paradigms for the U.S. role in the world.

The Fund began supporting The Institute for State Effectiveness in 2007, with grants for several projects in Afghanistan and Kosovo and two funders’ briefings for the organization.

In 2011, the RBF began supporting Just Vision, an organization that addresses the lack of media coverage of Palestinian and Israeli civilians doing nonviolent work to end the Occupation of the West Bank.