Grantmaking Approach

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The Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) strives to be bold, grounded, inclusive, and responsive in our grantmaking to advance the Fund’s mission. We deploy the financial assets given to the RBF by the Rockefeller family and others to help our partners in civil society strengthen coalitions, convene people of diverse backgrounds, elevate new and broader perspectives, generate new ideas, and advance systems change. We offer space for convenings and artist residencies at The Pocantico Center to extend our grantmaking impact. We also leverage the Fund and family legacy to access, influence, and collaborate with philanthropic peers, policymakers, and others in service of grantee work.

Our grantmaking is organized into seven programs. Three thematic programs—Democratic Practice, Sustainable Development, and Peacebuilding—address the interrelated challenges of democratic decline, climate change, and violent conflict. The Culpeper Arts & Culture program, created through the 2008 merger with the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation, supports arts organizations and artists in the New York City region that shape understanding of these critical concerns and the human experience. Pivotal Place programs in China, Central America, and the Western Balkans focus on one or more RBF themes in a specific geographic context that we believe has disproportionate significance for the future of the surrounding regions, an ecosystem, or the world.

As interdependence among states, communities, individuals, ecosystems, and issues accelerates, developments in any of these program areas have implications for the others. Recognizing that the problems the RBF aims to address are profound and our resources are modest, our grantmaking programs share common approaches to achieve enduring impact:    

  • Nurture bold ideas from the ground up. Progress requires remedying root causes while preserving past gains. We focus our grantmaking on movement building and policy development to help grantees transform systems and create lasting solutions to persistent challenges.
  • Support solutions grounded in evidence and lived experience. Entrenched problems call for grassroots engagement and policymaker action. We work with emerging and established thought leaders and community advocates, providing resources for their organizations to experiment with new approaches, expand capacity, develop policy ideas, and foster collaboration to meet shared goals.
  • Advance equity and inclusion. Power is always contested in the struggle for social progress. We are mindful of our continuing privilege as a U.S. philanthropic foundation and work to ensure that our grants include support for marginalized or excluded groups working to build power and pursue justice.
  • Respond to changing contexts. Transformative social change can take years or even decades. We stand by our commitments to ambitious, long-term goals but we listen to our partners and remain nimble to take up near-term opportunities that could have catalytic impact.

Program Guidelines

Each program has distinct guidelines that summarize our understanding of the field, adapt dimensions of our approach to context, and present our priorities for funding. Grant seekers should study the program guidelines closely before applying.

Democratic Practice   Sustainable Development   Peacebuilding   Culpeper Arts & Culture

Central America   China   Western Balkans