People receive the COVID-19 vaccine in New York in April 2021. Photo by Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images.
The Fund in 2021: Navigating a New Reality
After the tumultuous year it followed, 2021 brought both fresh hope and renewed uncertainty. The first woman and first woman of color to be elected vice president of the United States was inaugurated at the U.S. Capitol mere weeks after a violent white supremacist insurrection overran the very same building. COVID-19 vaccines became widely available, though their distribution was plagued by inequity. Scattered reopenings and a patchwork of pandemic protocols across the nation and the world helped us reconnect with friends and family but also deepened ideological divides. Two decades of war in Afghanistan ended with the United States’ catastrophic withdrawal from the country as the Taliban waged a takeover of the Afghan government.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and our grantees charged forward with the imperatives handed to us by this new reality. If 2020 was a year of revelations, then 2021 was a year of action. Internally, we made progress on our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts; worked to reduce our carbon footprint; and adapted our policies and practices in response to undeniably extensive workplace changes. Externally, we leaned into our decades of experience to remain responsive and nimble. Our grantees refused to allow the threats on the horizon to paralyze them.
"There is no 'golden age of American democracy' to fall back on, only an opportunity—and an urgent need—to reinvent democracy to meet the needs of today and tomorrow."
- Stephen Heintz
President and CEO of the RBF, January 6, 2021
The destruction wrought by 2020 created new opportunities for our grantees to transform outdated structures and begin building new ones. Among our grantees, we saw both a rise in community-driven work and ongoing attention to global threats and opportunities. As travel restrictions lifted, we were able to reconnect with grantees in person, see their work up close, and explore new ways to provide support. Our flexible structure allowed us to adapt to changing circumstances: we took a stand on climate justice, launched a new program in Central America, expanded our support for underrepresented artists, and responded to the evolving situation in Afghanistan.
The Pocantico Center took advantage of new technologies and socially-distanced gatherings to advance the RBF’s commitment to supporting and celebrating diverse artists and bringing their work to underserved audiences. The annual Culpeper summer performance series returned in a new form, inviting smaller audiences of frontline workers and community groups to Pocantico for performances by renowned local and national artists. Livestreaming and recording made performances and events available to long-time friends of Pocantico and new viewers in our community and across the globe. In-person and virtual conferences gathered grantees and other organizations to facilitate connection and conversation on issues of priority to the RBF.
Pocantico by the Numbers
In-Person Conferences & Programs
Digital Conferences & Programs
"With an emphasis on participation, innovation, and diversity, the arts offer an alternative to dominant exclusionary narratives and can shift the paradigm."
- Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas
Program Director, Culpeper Arts & Culture, November 17, 2021
Since our own divestment from fossil fuels in 2014, the RBF has worked to encourage other institutional investors to align their investments with their values. After nearly a decade of active campaigning by the RBF and others in the divestment movement, Harvard University, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Ford Foundation all took significant action to reduce their fossil fuel exposure in 2021. At COP26, however, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ)—a highly anticipated pledge by banks and commercial investors to decarbonize their portfolios by 2050—failed to deliver a meaningful plan for action, highlighting the work still to be done by private finance industry players to advance sustainable energy policy and prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
As of December 31, 2021
"Just think what it would mean if financial institutions committed to ending finance for new fossil fuel development. It would be one of the most powerful levers anyone on the planet could pull to fix the climate problem."
Program Director, Sustainable Development, November 16, 2021
Total Spending in 20204
Staff & Trustees
It became clear throughout 2021 that many pandemic changes to the way we lived our lives were here to stay. The RBF took this opportunity to grapple with changing work arrangements, experiment with new ways of working as individuals and as teams, and develop new skills and capacities to support one another. As vaccinations and new information about COVID-19 allowed us to reopen our offices in the fall, we set out to imagine a flexible workplace underpinned by a strong organizational culture and sense of belonging. For the first time in the history of the RBF, over half of our staff were people of color, energizing our efforts to increase inclusivity and equity.
Individuals Employed in 20216
Employees Identify as Women
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 2021 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 20 percent of 2021 grantmaking. Back to report→
4. Not including investment fees. Back to report →
5. Grants paid varies from grants awarded because some grants are payable over more than one year. See the Grantmaking section for total 2021 grants awarded. Back to report →
6. 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 →