The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (CSMF) was created by its namesake, a philanthropist whose grandfather, Samuel R. Mott, started the Mott’s Apple Juice company. Charles Stewart Mott (1875-1973) established himself as a successful businessman in his own right in 1906, when he moved the headquarters of his father's struggling wheel-manufacturing company from Utica, New York to Flint, Michigan and promptly turned the enterprise into a success. Charles then sold the company to General Motors Corporation in 1908 and was made a vice president of GM; he thereafter accepted payment in GM stock and eventually became the company’s largest individual stockholder. This wealth enabled Mott to establish the foundation bearing his name in 1926. A conservative Republican, Mott also had a background in politics. He served three terms as mayor of Flint between 1912 and 1918, and ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan in 1920. In 1963, he endowed his foundation with $195 million in GM stock.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, CSMF, like many other large foundations of that period, began to embrace a host of left-wing causes that were diametrically opposed to the values of its founder. One of those who worked most assiduously to push CSMF leftward was Charles Stewart Mott's son, Stewart Rawlings Mott (1937-2008), who funneled money to left-wing organizations in the fields of arms control, civil liberties, gay rights, feminism, birth control, abortion, and sex research; he also established a separate entity, the Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust (later Foundation), to serve as his own philanthropic vehicle. Further, the younger Mott contributed generously to Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign, and four years later he was the largest single donor to George McGovern's White House bid.
Today CSMF uses “creative grantmaking” to promote “systemic change” designed to bring about “a just, equitable and sustainable society.” In recent years, it has funded such prominent left-wing entities as the Tides Center, the Tides Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, George Soros's Open Society Institute, the United Nations Foundation, the Carter Center, and the Children’s Defense Fund.
Mott-funded think tanks include the Aspen Institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Economic Policy Institute, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Alan Guttmacher Institute (the research arm of Planned Parenthood).
Embracing the goals and values of community-organizing groups inspired by the late Saul Alinsky, CSMF contributes heavily to the Center for Community Change, the National Council of La Raza, the Gamaliel Foundation, the Industrial Areas Foundation, the Midwest Academy, and Interfaith Worker Justice. The Mott Foundation also supported the ACORN-affiliated American Institute for Social Justice, which collapsed after ACORN filed for bankruptcy. In 2010, fully 30% of CSMF grants were disbursed through its “Pathways out of Poverty” program. One of those “pathways,” as described in a Mott annual report, seeks “to enhance the power and effectiveness of the community-organizing field in order to strengthen and sustain the involvement of low-income communities in shaping their futures.”
Further, Pathways out of Poverty advocates increased funding for public education, particularly “in low-income communities.” It also promotes “policies and programs that increase income and assets” for the poor; a “social safety net that augments families’ efforts to escape poverty”; and “innovative strategies that enable low-skill, low-income job seekers to enter the labor market.”
CSMF's Civil Society program seeks “to strengthen philanthropy and the nonprofit sector as vital vehicles for increasing civic engagement and improving communities and societies” not only in the U.S., but also in such places as Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and South Africa.
The Mott Foundation's Environment program works to “protect the diversity and integrity of selected ecosystems in North America and around the world.” Toward this end, CSMF funds numerous environmental organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Earth, the World Resources Institute, Environmental Defense, and the Sierra Club Foundation.
CSMF's Flint Area program focuses on addressing "the economic, social and racial challenges" facing Charles Stewart Mott's hometown, which in recent times has become economically blighted. This program is organized into four grantmaking areas: (a) Arts, Culture and Education (which supports local groups involved in these fields); (b) Economic Revitalization (supporting “organizations that assist in the development of new businesses and job creation” in the Flint area); (c) Strengthening Community (with an emphasis on “affordable housing” and “race-relations issues”); and (d) Special Initiatives (addressing various “specific, unforeseen needs of the community”).
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, click here.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)