The Fund in 2020: Seeing Clearly

"In times of crisis, opportunities to make the world more just, sustainable, and peaceful may seem increasingly out of reach. But these moments can also sharpen our vision and bring increased clarity about our obligations as individuals, community members, and global citizens."

-Rockefeller Brothers Fund

March 20, 2020

The global COVID-19 pandemic upended nearly every human life in 2020. For more than a year, its abrupt, visceral, and far-reaching impacts commanded all our attention. As ordinary distractions gave way to that singular focus, we saw the world a little more clearly.

Disproportionate health and economic damage in communities of color illustrated how racism and discrimination influence every facet of life, from hospitals and housing to employment and education to access to justice. Lockdown isolation previewed the implications of unchecked climate change. Near constant threats to public health gave autocrats cover to sidestep democratic norms, spread misinformation, restrict public organizing, and impede elections. Deadlock and distrust over gathering, masking, and vaccination demonstrated the erosion of social cohesion due to decades of deepening partisanship. And in the confluence of crises, we saw how our world—countries, neighbors, causes, even moments in time—is defined by interdependence.

We’ve learned over our 80-year history that moments of crisis often present glimpses of opportunity. None of the issues now in the spotlight were new; the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and our grantees had been working on them for years and even decades. Together, we had collected knowledge, tested practices, cultivated trust, and built a vision that allowed us to respond to this hinge moment in our nation’s and our planet’s history.



Grantees defied despair and trained their eyes on some of our longest-standing priorities: climate change, democracy, and justice. The Fund increased flexibility on existing grants and accelerated new grantmaking in 2020 to match the urgency of the moment, infusing funds into election protection, democratic reinvention, climate organizing, and racial justice both nationally and internationally. The average grant size grew by nearly 45 percent over 2019.

Grantmaking by the Numbers


Grants Awarded in 2020


Grants Awarded to New Grantees


Grants Awarded for More Than One Year

$53.9 Million

Grant Dollars Awarded in 2020 (including donor contributions)1


Average Grant Amount


Grant Dollars Awarded for General Support2

2020 Grant Dollars Awarded by Program3


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“We share the conviction that lasting progress demands systemic transformation and reinvention driven by diverse coalitions.”

-Rockefeller Brothers Fund

December 7, 2020



Restricted access to The Pocantico Center during the pandemic shined a light on other barriers that may impact audiences’ ability to enjoy Pocantico. While the site was closed, we engaged with local community and cultural organizations to explore partnerships, welcome more diverse audiences, and learn how we could be a community resource. We experimented with digital programs and recorded content, allowing viewers both across the globe and in our neighborhood to connect from home. We missed the buzz of conferences and programs at Pocantico, but the empty campus also gave us an opportunity to begin outdoor lighting and signage projects that will create a cohesive campus experience for our guests.

Pocantico by the Numbers


In-Person Conferences & Programs


Digital Conferences & Programs


Total Audience for All Conferences & Programs



Five years of Mission-Aligned Investing prepared the RBF for uncertain markets during the pandemic. Global demand for oil and gas plummeted during long periods of social distancing, but our fossil-fuel-free portfolio was largely protected from major swings. While strong financial markets during the pandemic deepened economic inequity, the RBF took steps to address deep-seated discrimination within the financial sector by committing to invest 25 percent of its endowment with firms owned by people of color and women.

Endowment Value4

(in millions)

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Investment Allocation

As of December 31, 2020

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“We spent the last five years proving oil was bad not only for the environment but for the bottom line. COVID-19 did it in two months.”

-Stephen Heintz

President & CEO

For up-to-date information about the Fund’s divestment progress, impact investments, ESG investments, and Gender and Racial Equity Lens investments, please visit our website. Detailed financial information is available in the Fund’s annual 990PF form and audited financial statement.

Spending by the Numbers

$67.1 Million

Total Spending in 20205


Payout Rate

2020 Spending6

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Staff & Trustees

An institution-wide equity audit in 2020 provided an opportunity to look inward at the impacts of structural racism on our workplace. We complemented our external grantmaking on racial justice with internal efforts to identify vestiges of white supremacist patriarchal culture in our relationships with colleagues and to replace them with patience, vulnerability, and trust. Our new statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion demonstrates our commitment to build an organizational culture that is anti-racist and anti-sexist.

Staff by the Numbers


Individuals Employed in 20207

9.2 Years

Average Tenure


Employees Identify as Women

2020 Staff Diversity

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Trustees by the Numbers


Trustees Served During 2020


Rockefeller Family Trustees


Trustees Identify as Women

2020 Trustee Diversity

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1. Includes approved grants that subsequently lapsed. Grants awarded differs from grants spending because some grants are payable over more than one year. See the Finance section for total 2020 grants spending. Back to report →
2. Additional grantmaking supports distinct institutes and initiatives through universities and fiscal sponsors, operating as general support. Back to report→
3. Non-program-related grants to support Philanthropic Stewardship, Pocantico Conferences, Employee Matching Gifts, President’s and Vice Presidents’ discretionary giving, the Staff Grantmaking Fund, the Racial Justice Initiative, and Our Common Purpose account for 13 percent of 2020 grantmaking. Back to report →
4. In 2018, a $250 million gift from the estate of David Rockefeller raised the endowment to over $1.2 billion. Back to report →
5. Not including investment fees. Back to report →
6. Grants paid varies from grants awarded because some grants are payable over more than one year. See the Grantmaking section for total 2020 grants awarded. Back to report →
7. Individuals employed may exceed the number of staff positions to account for both new hires and terminations for the same role. Staffing figures do not include short-term internship positions. Back to report →