Left: Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Archive Center. Right: Photo by David Sundberg via Esto.
The Fund in 2022: Then & Now
In the fall of 2022, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund opened the doors to the new David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center at Pocantico, bringing together artists and the community to develop, present, and experience new works of art. Architects FXCollaborative transformed John D. Rockefeller’s historic Orangerie at The Pocantico Center into a LEED Platinum-certified cultural hub that weds the RBF’s commitments to the arts, sustainability, and inclusivity. The building, which will reach net-zero energy consumption, features a gallery, performance space, and flexible artists’ studio to support all stages of the creative process.
The new facility is named for David Rockefeller, one of the five sons of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who together founded the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 1940. David was a committed patron of the arts until his death in 2017. More than a decade earlier, the lifelong philanthropist had pledged to auction his collection of art, antiquities, furniture, and other personal items and bequeath the proceeds to charitable organizations. His largest gift, $250 million, expanded the Rockefeller Brothers Fund grantmaking programs and supported the construction of the new arts center.
In establishing the Fund, each brother—John 3rd, Nelson, Laurance, Winthrop, and David—brought his own set of interests, which became its guiding principles: passion for the arts, protection of the environment, importance of civic participation, and commitment to international engagement. Key to their efforts was a willingness to shift course when presented with challenges.
The big steps the RBF took in 2022 to launch the DR Center, increase support for climate change mitigation and resiliency, and reduce emissions from our investment portfolio are rooted in those longstanding commitments. We continue to reflect and build upon the Rockefeller brothers’ legacy while adapting to a changing world.
The DR Center opening brought myriad opportunities to welcome new audiences to The Pocantico Center: this year, more than 33,000 visitors came to Pocantico.1 A community open house offered visitors a first glimpse of the space to explore sustainability features, including a solar array and rain garden; meet the Pocantico Prize-winning visual artist-in-residence, Athena LaTocha; and view the inaugural gallery exhibition, Inspired Encounters: Women Artists and the Legacies of Modern Art. The exhibition paired pieces by groundbreaking women artists of the postwar period drawn from the collection at Kykuit assembled by Nelson Rockefeller, who also served as president of the Museum of Modern Art, with new commissions of contemporary art.
"It's an opportunity to bring in the community, especially underserved populations, to see not only what's here but to experience the artistic process."
Executive Director of The Pocantico Center, June 8, 2022
The RBF made its first climate change-related grants in the mid-1980s. In 2022, nearly half of our grantmaking dollars support climate-related activity, thanks in part to an influx of grant funds authorized by the board in 2020 as part of the RBF “Seizing the Opportunity” initiative.
As a series of superstorms and megadroughts rocked 2022, the RBF board of trustees renewed its commitment to accelerate support for climate change. In March, trustees allocated an additional $5 million to climate-specific grantmaking and, in November, adopted a plan to spend an additional $100 million over ten years, beginning in 2023, to address both the climate crisis and the political and economic systems that drive and reflect it. This ethos of interdependence is a cornerstone of RBF environmental philanthropy embraced by RBF founders Laurance and Winthrop Rockefeller and embodied by today’s Just Transition movement.
In 2022, the RBF concluded that, despite our divestment successes, eliminating the endowment’s exposure to fossil fuel holdings alone is not enough. The RBF is now working to align our investment portfolio with science-based emission targets that avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Using tools we gained through the divestment process started in 2014, we began by examining how the RBF and the companies we invest in contribute to planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
The analysis indicates our endowment portfolio is already a climate outperformer; however, it falls short of the imperative to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Going forward, we’re committed to finding more ways to decarbonize our endowment, help standardize emissions data collection and availability, and mobilize our philanthropic peers and other institutional investors to accelerate a just transition to a low-carbon economy.
"What is good for people and planet can also be good for the bottom line."
Executive Vice President for Finance, Operations, and Pocantico, April 4, 2022
The following financial figures are unaudited and will be updated upon completion of the 2022 audit.
As of December 31, 2022
Total Spending in 20225
After serving as president of the Fund for 16 years, in 1956, John D. Rockefeller 3rd passed the torch to his younger brother Nelson, who would serve in the role until 1958. History repeated itself in 2022 when John’s granddaughter Valerie Rockefeller completed her nine-year term as chair of the RBF and welcomed Nelson’s grandson Joseph Pierson to take up the mantle. A filmmaker and chronicler of the family’s history, Pierson has been a critical contributor to the Fund’s grantmaking programs, the evolution of The Pocantico Center, and the relationship between the family and the Fund since he began his first term as trustee in 1994.
"The challenges that we've faced have really required us to defend and really explain what we're doing. That's actually made us a stronger, healthier organization."
- Joseph Pierson
Chair, RBF Board of Trustees, November 3, 2022
The foundation sector continues to grapple with the history of wealth concentration and who has been excluded from philanthropic discourse as a result. The RBF kept up its efforts, both internally with our staff and externally with grantees and partners, to become a more equitable institution and build a more inclusive future for global philanthropy and its next generation of leaders.
Individuals Employed in 20227
Employees Identify as Women
1. Includes visits for conferences, public programs, the David Rockefeller Center gallery, artist residencies, and Kykuit tours. Back to report→
2. 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 2022 grants spending. Back to report →
3. Additional grantmaking supports distinct institutes and initiatives through universities and fiscal sponsors, operating as general support. Back to report→
4. 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 12 percent of 2022 grantmaking. Back to report→
5. Not including investment fees. 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 →