- Assets: $54,936,770 (2017)
- Grants Received: $0 (2017)
- Grants Awarded: $5,234,905 (2017)
The Compton Foundation was established in 1946 by New York investment banker Randolph Compton (1892-1987) and his wife, Dorothy (1895-1974). The couple was motivated to create the Foundation (initially as a Charitable Trust) as a result of the grief they experienced when the youngest of their four children, John, was killed in combat by a sniper’s bullet while serving the U.S. military in Italy during World War II. The original mission of their Charitable Trust was to “build the foundations for peace and … help prevent another world war” by supporting peace- and disarmament-oriented organizations.The Comptons maintained that world peace was possible only if the conditions that typically led to war could be eliminated. Chief among those, as the Comptons saw them, were: the rapid growth of the human population; the depletion of natural resources due to increased worldwide consumption levels (especially in the United States, where consumption per capita was disproportionately large); the degradation of the natural environment; and “the chaotic status of human rights” in much of the world.
Randolph Compton believed strongly in the efficacy of combining scholarly research with activism in order to define and address world problems. Thus, in its early years the Compton Charitable Trust directed much of its philanthropy toward the training of promising young scholars—particularly nonwhite students in the U.S. and in developing countries—whose academic pursuits fell within the Trust’s primary fields of interest. Over time, the Trust’s mission expanded to include also support for welfare programs, social justice organizations, and the arts in the communities where Compton family members resided.The Compton Charitable Trust was converted into a Foundation in 1973, and sixteen years later it relocated its headquarters from New York City to Northern California, where Jim Compton (1921-2006) and Ann Compton Stephens (1921-2010)—two of Randolph and Dorothy Compton’s children—lived. Since then, several of the founders’ grandchildren have served on the Compton Foundation board. Moreover, the third generation of Compton descendants and their spouses have demonstrated an increased interest in, and involvement with, the Foundation.During the first decade of the 2000s, the mission of the Compton Foundation (CF) was to “foster human and ecological security,” so as to help create “a world in which humans live in harmony with each other, and in sustainable balance with the earth.” Toward that end, CF’s “Environment and Sustainability” grantmaking program—rooted in the premise that human industrial activities, particularly in capitalist societies, are inherently destructive to the natural environment—focused on “reducing the U.S. contribution to global climate change.”
Another major CF initiative at that time was its “Peace and Security” program, which sought “to promote peace by addressing the need for new policies and practices to provide for human safety in regions of armed conflict.” Suggesting that American policies were to blame for much of humanity’s international strife, this program aimed to “focus public attention on the need for U.S. and international policy change in war-torn areas, including the need for new approaches and increased public funding for peace operations.” In the fall of 2002 the Compton Foundation helped create the Iraq Peace Fund, a short-term project aimed at raising money to promote the anti-war movement, through a grant to the Tides Foundation.CF’s “Population and Reproductive Health” program—emphasizing the “links” between “population stabilization” and “peace and environment issues”—aimed to “ensure and improve access to family planning and reproductive health services within the U.S., and make emergency contraception [including abortifacients] a widely accepted and available method of family planning in the U.S. and internationally.” Supporting unfettered, government-funded access to abortion-on-demand, CF lamented that many private health insurance plans “do not cover family planning services.”
In 2014, CF formulated a new mission statement emphasizing the need for “a sense of urgency and a willingness to take risks” in order to “transform the way we live.” Toward that end, the Foundation established two new grantmaking programs through which it could “provide financial resources to galvanize the movement for progressive and democratic social change”:
1. The Transformative Leadership program seeks to develop progressive movement leaders who are “driven by a strong sense of social purpose”; who possess “the courage to lead morally, as well as politically”; and who are adept not only at “strategizing, organizing, and campaigning,” but also at developing the “personal relationships” necessary in order to influence people. Under the auspices of this program, CF supports institutions that “are training, convening, and coaching leaders with the above qualities.”
2. The Courageous Storytelling program promotes the use of visual art, music, drama, film, writing, and creative social media “to amplify critical issues and to blend personal with political, emotional with intellectual.” In this area, CF supports: (a) “creative media … that captures imagination, expands our understanding of critical social and environmental problems, and articulates a positive vision for the future”; and (b) organizations that help creative artists “engage with social and environmental change.”Over the years, CF has awarded grants to such influential organizations as 350.org, the Agape Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Northern California, the Aspen Institute, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Catholics for a Free Choice, the Center for International Policy, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Defenders of Wildlife, the Earth Day Network, Earthjustice, Ecotrust, the Feminist Majority Foundation, Fenton Communications, Friends of the Earth, Global Green USA, Green For All, the Greenpeace Fund, Human Rights First, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the League of Young Voters, the NAACP, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Abortion Federation, the National Council of Churches, the National Security Archive Fund, the National Women’s Health Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Planned Parenthood, the Ploughshares Fund, the Population Connection, the Proteus Fund, Public Campaign, the Public Citizen Foundation, the Rainforest Action Network, the Ruckus Society, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the Sierra Club Foundation, State Voices, the Tides Center, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Wilderness Society, and the Women’s Action for New Directions Education Fund.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Compton Foundation, click here.
CF is a member organization of the Peace and Security Funders Group, which focuses heavily on antiwar and environmental issues. To address the latter, the Foundation has implemented a number of “Environmental and Social Sustainability Policies” designed to minimize the “carbon footprint” of its staff and board members.
For additional information on the Compton Foundation, click here.