We are writing to update our grantees and those interested in the work of The Overbrook Foundation on our evolving program directions and expectations for awarding grants in 2013. As readers of our previous letters know, the Foundation has, since 2008, been dealing with the adverse impact of the economic downturn on the Foundation’s investment portfolio and our ability to maintain a robust portfolio of Human Rights and Environment Program grants.
During 2012, the Foundation and its family office partner, the Overbrook Management Corporation, took a number of steps that achieved significant administrative efficiencies and resulted in lower projections for program related expenses in 2013. As a result, funds available for 2013 grantmaking remain stable at approximately 2012 levels. With renewed growth of the investment portfolio, it is our expectation that our ability to expand our grantmaking will begin in 2014.
Overbrook is a progressive family foundation whose mission is to support organizations advancing human rights and conserving the natural environment. In 2013 the Foundation’s Environment Program continues to focus primarily on biodiversity conservation in Latin America and sustainable production and consumption in the United States. The Human Rights Program directs most of its support to organizations within the United States that are advancing the U.S. domestic human rights movement and those that seek to build the reproductive justice movement and advance marriage equality for same‐sex couples. Internationally, the Human Rights program continues its focus on gender rights and protecting human rights defenders in Latin America.
Despite limited resources, Overbrook has begun exploration of two initiatives it believes could be of great importance to the grantee communities it serves. The Board has authorized continued consideration by Environment Program staff of strategies for aligning vision within the environmental movement, fostering inclusion, cohesion and collaboration as we look toward the future. Within the Human Rights grantmaking portfolio, the Board has endorsed staff efforts to shape a modest initiative supporting groups that challenge the unfettered presence of “money in politics” in the U.S. and its corrosive impact on all forms of government.
The Foundation continues to discourage letters of inquiry although we remain interested in learning about organizations and projects that, at some future point, could be candidates for Foundation grantmaking. Unsolicited proposals will not be considered by the Foundation for funding in 2013. Foundation staff will invite proposals on a limited basis as opportunities that clearly match Foundation priorities are identified.
In a report we cited last year, the Foundation Center found that “unless the field sees five years of above average investment returns, social justice grantmaking levels in 2015 will remain below 2008.” We are modestly optimistic that the Foundation will achieve the returns required to begin rebuilding its grantmaking programs. In the meantime, we remain keenly aware of the difficulties facing our grantees. We recommit the Foundation to doing all it can to maintain the vitality of its Human Rights and Environment grantees, and the important work they are pursuing.
Stephen F. Altschul Stephen A. Foster
Chair of the Board of Directors President and CEO
If you are interested in more information on past Foundation priorities, please click here for past letters from the Chair and President.