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National Network of Grantmakers (NNG) Records

Identifier: MSS064

Scope and Contents

The National Network of Grantmakers (NNG) Records is divided into four series: Board of Directors Records, Administration Records, Program Records, and Publications. Although the NNG began in 1980, the majority of the materials in the collection cover only the years after the 1990 restructuring of the organization.

Board of Directors Records, 1989-2002, contains minutes, correspondence, and reports from the board of directors and its committees. The board meetings and minutes cover only the years between 1990 and 2002, after NNG completed a major reorganization. Meeting materials and minutes are available for all of the meetings during this period with the exception of the winter 2001 meeting. Although meeting materials are available for the April 2002 meeting, there are no minutes for that meeting in the collection. These files are a good source for director reports, financial information, and program updates.

The committee files include minutes, correspondence, and reports. These files are good sources for information about the origins of programs as well as causes favored by the organization. The majority of the materials in this section document the strategic planning of the organization throughout the 1990s.

Administrative Records, 1986-2006, contain files documenting the internal operations of NNG. The two major parts of this series are Development and Fundraising and Financial Information. This section details the development strategy of the organization and highlights contributors after 1994. The financial information in the collection includes the budget and the financial statistics. Because there are few audits available, financial information after 1999 is located in monthly financial statements.

Program Records, 1987-2006, include documentation of programs and initiatives sponsored by NNG. This series documents several NNG working groups and program initiatives and the Annual NNG Conference. The major initiatives contained in the files are the Donor Organization Network, Payout for Change, and the Southern Rural Development Initiative. These programs are well-documented through reports and meeting materials.

The Annual Conference files consist mainly of meeting programs. Much of the information in the conference files is incomplete and includes varying levels of documentation depending on the year. Some files include information about speakers and sessions while others include only the meeting program. Overviews of conference activities and outcomes can be found in the newsletters.

Publications, 1982-2006, contain publications produced by NNG and include research studies, surveys, and directories. The series also includes an incomplete set of the organization’s newsletter, Network News. The newsletter is the earliest record in the collection and is a good source for documenting the activities of the organization during the 1980s. Another resource for the history of NNG is Fostering Change: The Challenge to Progressive Philanthropy.


  • 1982 - 2006


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright laws of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.

Biographical / Historical

The National Network of Grantmakers (NNG) grew out of the Network of Change-Oriented Foundations, an organization that met on an informal basis to address social issues and advocate funding for community-based organizing. In an effort to create a more focused approach within the existing organization, a small group of members met in 1980 to devise a different strategy. The National Network of Grantmakers emerged from this meeting to serve as a forum for progressive-minded foundation personnel to advocate social justice through the support of community organizing.

The three-fold purpose of NNG was to develop strategies for dealing with key issues, to promote ways to increase the resource base for social and economic justice programs, and to serve as a forum for discussion. The loss of traditional funding sources for progressive causes and organizations served as an impetus for like-minded grant makers to come together to develop methods that ensured these organizations continued to consistently meet needs within their area of influence while making the most use of funding resources.

As a volunteer organization, individual members were responsible for the initiation of programs and the overall management of the organization. Five committees directed the activities of the organization: management, finance, program, communications, and membership. Throughout the 1980s NNG operated using this model. While the organization achieved success in developing strategies and creating forums for discussion, members realized a need to become increasingly focused with a formal organizational structure. By 1989 NNG emerged as one the largest affinity groups in organized philanthropy. Leaders initiated a strategic planning effort to help build a stronger infrastructure for achieving the organization’s goals and increase its effectiveness within the philanthropic community. The result of the strategic planning process was a restructuring of the organization. The management committee that oversaw NNG policy making became an elected board of directors with a broader range of oversight. In 1991 NNG moved into a centralized office and hired its first executive director. The new structure included five specific program areas for NNG: philanthropic reform, communications and publications, membership, events, and the annual conference.

Throughout the 1990s, NNG expanded its relationships with other philanthropy caucuses and working groups focused on the politically disenfranchised, empowerment, and minority causes. With a commitment “to increase philanthropic support for economic and social justice, challenge practices within this network and the larger philanthropic community, and promote diversity and open democratic processes within philanthropy,” NNG developed a strategy to raise awareness through public campaigns and generate discussion through groups of like-minded individuals.

While some of these affinity groups existed outside NNG, members with similar goals and experiences organized smaller caucuses within the confines of NNG focused on specific issues and causes such as issues of race, environment, and gender. In 1990 NNG members saw poverty in the rural south as a specific area of concern and formed an affinity group called Funders Who Fund in the South. This group focused specifically developing a funding base for addressing rural poverty, social problems, and environmental issues in the southern region of the United States. In 1994 this group, later renamed the Southern Rural Development Initiative (SRDI), incorporated as a separate organization dedicated to advocating support for grassroots programs in the rural south.

The 2000 NNG Conference, called Globalization: Why Should We Care? placed issues of social justice and advocacy in a global setting and encouraged attendees to become more aware of events outside regional and national borders. As a result of this conference, NNG members formed the International Working Group (IWG). This working group later evolved into Grantmakers Without Borders (Gw/oB), a separate membership organization dedicated to international philanthropy and specifically the areas of international social justice and the environment.

As NNG entered the next century, it continued as an effective forum for connecting its members. Its activities centered on advocacy, collaboration, media outreach, and research. One of its most visible campaigns during this period was the 1% More for Democracy initiative that was sparked by foundation payout research conducted by NNG. It concluded that funders could give more than they did without significantly damaging their base operating funds. This campaign actively recruited funders willing to increase giving by at least 1% above the legal requirement. With the start of the new millennium, NNG renewed efforts to strengthen its network through caucuses and working groups to encourage both formal and informal gathering.

While NNG maintained an active role in philanthropy and continued its programming uninterrupted, it struggled throughout the 1990s to develop a strong financial base. During this period it grew from a volunteer organization with no staff to a recognized voice in progressive philanthropy with a full-time permanent staff. Its growth and success in programming reinforced the need for strong financial support. In a decade of conservative politics and policies, funding for more progressive initiatives became more difficult to attain. In 2001 Terry Odendahl, NNG Executive Director beginning in 1993, stepped down and the organization entered a phase of transition. Prior to 2001, NNG started to recentralize its operations in an effort to consolidate its resources. Its offices in Atlanta closed and NNG operations merged at its San Diego, California office. JoAnn Chase succeeded Odendahl as the executive director in late 2001 and NNG’s headquarters moved to New York City. In 2004 NNG hired Ron McKinley as its Executive Director and the headquarters relocated from New York to Minneapolis, Minnesota. As part of the move, NNG joined several like-minded affinity groups and philanthropic organizations including the Headwaters Foundation for Justice, Native Americans in Philanthropy, and Winds of Peace Foundation to form the Center for Progressive Philanthropy. In 2007 NNG ceased operations having permanently established progressive philanthropy’s voice in the larger realm of national and international funding.


5.4 Cubic Feet (5 record cartons and 1 document case)


The National Network of Grantmakers (NNG) is an organization formed in 1980 to bring together individuals committed to the idea that a “fully functioning democracy depends upon involved and empowered citizens who share both the responsibilities and benefits of society.” It was a progressive-minded organization committed to social, economic, and environmental justice.

Records include board and committee records, program files, correspondence, financial records, and publications.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented by the National Network of Grantmakers, August 2008. A2008/09-016


  • Shaw, Aileen M. Fostering Change: The Challenge to Progressive Philanthropy, California: National Network of Grantmakers, 1995.


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National Network of Grantmakers (NNG) Records, 1982-2006
Debra Brookhart
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Repository Details

Part of the Philanthropic Studies Archives Repository

IUPUI University Library
755 W. Michigan St.
Room 0133
Indianapolis IN 46202 USA