- Assets: $83,965,658 (2012)
- Grants Received: $0 (2012)
- Grants Awarded: $4,659,829 (2012)
- Ceased operations in 2013
The Columbia Foundation was established in 1940 "for the furtherance of the public welfare" by Madeleine Haas Russell (a great-grandniece of Levi Strauss) and her brother, William Haas, who died in 1943. Mrs. Russell headed the Foundation until her death in April 1999. Subsequently, family members Walter A. Haas (the great-grandnephew of Levi Strauss and President of Levi Strauss & Company from 1928-1955) and his business partner Daniel E. Koshland each served on the board for twenty years. Since 1977, the three Russell children -- Charles P. Russell (President), Alice Russell-Shapiro (Treasurer) and Christine Haas Russell (Secretary) -- have been actively engaged in overseeing the Foundation's day-to-day operations. Susan Clark has been the Executive Director of the Foundation since 1979.
The Foundation identifies its major fields of interest as: agriculture/food; the protection and preservation of animals and wildlife; the arts; civil liberties; death penalty issues; the right to die; the environment; social sciences; and urban/community development.
Among its most important core values, the Columbia Foundation lists its commitment to "appreciate diversity of ideas and people," and to "pursue social justice with understanding of, and compassion for, disenfranchised communities." In the Foundation's view, this disenfranchisement stems chiefly from injustices inherent in America's capitalist economic system.
Another self-identified core value of the Columbia Foundation is to "identify [the] underlying causes of and solutions to . . . environmental problems." Toward this end, the Foundation supports numerous organizations committed to the anti-capitalist agendas of radical environmentalism, whose ultimate goal, as Michael Berliner explains, is "not clean air and clean water, [but] rather . . . the demolition of technological/industrial civilization."
The Columbia Foundation also supports numerous anti-war groups that share a view of the United States as an aggressive, exploitative world power whose unjust policies lie at the root of many international disputes. Representative of such organizations is Global Exchange, led by the pro-Castro communist revolutionary Medea Benjamin. The Columbia Foundation has three Program Areas that define its philanthropy: 1) The Arts and Culture Program "encourages civic awareness of . . . the need to develop sustainable communities and economies and to protect human rights . . . supporting artistic activity that engages the public in the philosophical, aesthetic, personal, political, and practical aspects of these important contemporary issues." It promotes "art from a variety of cultures and perspectives, and art that engages people from diverse cultures." 2) The Human Rights program states, "The goal is the protection of basic human rights for all [and] the right to express convictions, to be free from discrimination, and to be secure in one's physical and mental being. Basic human rights also include the right to enjoy economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights.”
3) The goal of the Sustainable Communities and Economies program is to foster the "development of a zero-waste, closed-loop materials economy in which products are made to be re-used, repaired, and recycled to minimize and ultimately to eliminate waste."
The Columbia Foundation is a member organization of the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG), a network of more than six-dozen grantmakers dedicated to funding leftist groups and causes. (For a complete list of these grantmakers, click here.)
The Columbia Foundation works with such Program Consultants as LaDoris Cordell, a board member of the David and Lucille Packard Foundation; Dorothy Ehrlich, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California; Anthony K. Van Jones, a Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights attorney who founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which "monitors, documents and confronts human rights abuses by law-enforcement officials and . . . the prison-industrial complex"; Gara LaMarche, an ACLU member, Vice President and Director of U.S. Programs for George Soros' Open Society Institute, and former Associate Director of Human Rights Watch; and Jerry Mander, the Program Director for Megatechnology and Globalization at the Foundation for Deep Ecology and a Sierra Club activist.
Among the recent beneficiaries of Columbia Foundation grants are: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Amnesty International; the Council on Foundations; the Defenders of Wildlife; the EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund; Ecotrust; the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; Environmental Media Services; the Environmental Working Group; Friends of the Earth; Global Exchange; Greenpeace; the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund; the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL); the Natural Resources Defense Council; the Public Citizen Foundation; the Rainforest Action Network; the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center; the Trust for Public Land; and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Columbia Foundation, click here.
The Columbia Foundation closed as of November 30, 2013.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)