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Beldon Fund Records

Identifier: MSS085

Scope and Contents

The Beldon Fund Records contains the Beldon Fund’s grant files and administrative files from 1954 to 2015. The bulk of the collection dates from 1978 to 2009 and is organized into three series: Administrative Files, Executive Director Files, and Grant Files.

The Administrative Files series consists of correspondence, reports, tax documents, lease agreements, bylaws, authorization letters, grant lists, and records of Beldon Fund Board of Trustees meetings with John Hunting’s handwritten annotations and notes. This series also contains articles about Hunting and about the Beldon Fund, notes on the history of the Beldon Fund, records on the transition period at the Beldon Fund after the sale of the Steelcase stock, and records related to the process of spending-out and closing the Beldon Fund.

The Executive Director Files series contains the files of William (Bill) Roberts, Beldon’s president and executive director from 1998-2008. The series mostly consists of Robert’s notebooks from 1990 to 1998, when he was the Legislative Director and the Director of Strategic Communications at the Environmental Defense Fund. The notebooks contain meeting notes, schedules, and planning information.

The Grant Files Series consists of the correspondence, reports, news articles, and grant proposals from the various iterations of the Beldon Fund and from John Hunting’s involvement with Stern Fund. The main contents of this series are the grant files of the Beldon Fund from 1999 to 2009, when Beldon was a private foundation funded by Hunting’s sale of his Steelcase stock, headquartered in New York City, and organized to spend-out in ten years. The Beldon Fund organized their files by grantee, with individual folders for each project Beldon funded for the organization. This series is arranged alphabetically by grantee and within each grantee, alphabetically by project.

This series also contains subseries for the grant files from the Stern Fund, the Beldon I Fund, the Beldon II Fund, and rejected grants.

The Stern Fund subseries contains the correspondence, reports, news articles, grant proposals, and funding decisions made through John Hunting’s involvement in the Stern Fund from 1978 to 1981. Of particular interest at the beginning of the files are the contents of several folders Hunting put together containing grant proposals from 1978 through 1980, which were sent to him by David Hunter to consider funding through the Stern Fund. Each folder begins with a list of the proposals it contains along with the proposals themselves. Many of the proposals have handwritten notes about needed follow up, funding decisions, and grant amounts. The subsequent grant files are arranged alphabetically by name of organization.

The Beldon I Fund subseries contains correspondence, reports, news articles, and grant proposals funded by John Hunting’s first Beldon Fund, established in 1978 as a charitable income trust. The files contain Beldon I grants from its first grants in 1982, through the fund’s reformation into a 501(c)(3) in 1988, and ending in 1998 when Hunting’s sale of his Steelcase stock transformed the Beldon Fund into a much larger grant-giving, spend-out enterprise.

The Beldon II Fund subseries consists of the correspondence, reports, news articles, and grant proposals funded by the Beldon II Fund from the formation of the JRH Foundation in 1988, through its name change to the Beldon II Fund, and also ending with the larger, transformed Beldon Fund in 1998.

The Rejected Grants subseries contains the grant applications that Beldon rejected in 1999 and 2000. These files are arranged in alphabetical order by grant request.


  • 1954 - 2015


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public except for box 1, folders 11-14 and 16, and box 2, folder 5, which contain personal information.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Historical Note

The Beldon Fund was founded in 1978 as a Clifford Trust focused on advocating for environmental policy. It gave its first grants to environmental groups in 1982 and made its last grants in June 2008.

Beldon was established by philanthropist John R. Hunting, from Grand Rapids, MI. John Hunting was born on November 7, 1931, to Mary I. and David D. Hunting. He graduated from Cranbrook private school and attended Denison University, where he completed his BA in English. After serving two years in the army, teaching English at Cranbrook for three years, and earning a masters’ degree at the University of Michigan, Hunting moved to New York City for a year. There he studied psychodrama, singing, and dancing before returning to Grand Rapids and performing at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. During the Depression Hunting’s father had purchased stock in the Metal Office Furniture Company (now Steelcase Inc.), where he was an employee. He split his shares between his three sons, which gave John Hunting a comfortable income. In 1961, Hunting used this income to found the Dyer-Ives Foundation, which focused on empowering local organizations to revitalize the central city of Grand Rapids. After running the Dyer-Ives Foundation for 15 years, Hunting moved back to New York and began to get involved in philanthropy and in environmental causes.

Hunting began making anonymous donations to environmental causes through the Stern Fund. He worked with David Hunter, the Stern Fund’s executive director, to select organizations that Hunting was interested in supporting. In 1978, the Beldon Fund, which eventually became Beldon I, was established as a Clifford Trust. Around this time Hunting moved to Washington D.C. in order to help further the national environmental agenda by getting involved in politics. In 1982 Hunting hired Judy Donald as Beldon’s first executive director and they began giving out grants directly through the Beldon Fund, instead of through the Stern Fund. At first the grants averaged about $8,000 per grant and went to national groups working to protect environmental laws from the Reagan administration’s anti-regulatory environmental policy. As national environmental groups became stronger, Beldon’s focus shifted to support state-level groups trying new policies that might also work on a national level. In 1987 Beldon began making more grants that focused on supporting environmental groups’ infrastructure, in order to strengthen the underpinnings of the movement.

Beldon I’s ten-year trust expired in 1988 and the fund was reestablished as a 501(c)(3) “pass-through” private foundation. That same year, Hunting established the JRH Foundation (the name was soon changed to Beldon II) as a separate 501(c)(3) private foundation with $2.5 million in assets to support the work of the Beldon I Fund. Together, Beldon I and Beldon II were known publicly as the Beldon Fund.

In 1995 Hunting made a gift of stock worth $12.5 million to Beldon II, thereby increasing the grant-making capability of the Beldon II Fund. The majority of the organization’s grantmaking and all of its administration switched to Beldon II. Then, in 1997, two major changes happened at Beldon. First, the decision was made to make more 2-year and challenge grants from Beldon II while Beldon I’s focus shifted to making one-year grants and small grants. Second, Steelcase, the company in which John Hunting owned stock, went public. Hunting sold his shares and endowed Beldon II with $100 million.

This infusion of funds prompted the Beldon Fund to shift directions. Hunting and Beldon moved back to New York, formed a board of directors, and began searching for an executive director to lead Beldon through the biggest change of all. With this influx of funds came the decision to spend-out the Beldon Fund over the course of the next ten years. Hunting’s concern about the environment led him to decide that the Beldon Fund could do more good with more impact in the immediate future, instead of setting up the Beldon Fund in perpetuity. Hunting believed that the current state of the environment made the future uncertain, and so it was important for current philanthropists to make immediate changes and leave the future to the next generation.

For the first two years, the reorganized Beldon Fund focused on five program areas, but in 2001 Beldon hired Headwaters to conduct a survey to see how the fund was doing. The survey resulted in a realignment after it became clear that Beldon’s focus was too widespread to be effective in the fund’s short time-frame, and as grantees expressed frustration with unclear guidelines about who would be funded. Beldon put in place a more clear and focused strategy for its last several years, updated its explanations of what types of organizations would receive grants, and narrowed its programs down to two areas—Key States and Human Health and the Environment. The Key States program provided grants to organizations in states Beldon had identified as key to making state-level changes that would help shift national environmental policy, and the Human Health and the Environment program focused on eliminating environmental risks to public health. Subsequent feedback led to the Human Health and the Environment program eventually trimming its focus to chemical policy reform. The survey also resulted in the creation of the Discretionary Fund, which gave Beldon the option to make some grants to organizations that no longer fit into their focus areas.

As Beldon’s closing date neared, it made sure to work with its grantees to help them find alternate funding streams for after Beldon spent out. It also conducted several evaluations of what Beldon had done right, and what it could have done better. Beldon made its last grants in June 2008 and closed its doors in 2009. From 1998 to 2008 Beldon gave out grants totaling $120 million. After the spend-out, Beldon published “Giving While Living: The Beldon Fund Spend-Out Story” to offer other philanthropists and foundations insight on the lessons Beldon learned during the spend-out process.


102 Cubic Feet (101 cartons, 1 document case, 2 flat boxes)


The Beldon Fund was created in 1978 by environmental philanthropist John R. Hunting as a national foundation focused on advocating for environmental policy. From 1982 to 1998, the Beldon Fund provided grants to organizations like American Environment Inc., the Clean Water Fund, the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Idaho Conservation League. In 1998, John Hunting sold his stock in Steelcase Inc. and endowed Beldon with $100 million, prompting him to rethink the direction of the foundation. Hunting believed that increasing global warming and environmental destruction required immediate attention, and so he planned a ten-year spend-out of the Beldon Fund. Initially, Beldon made grants in five program areas, but in 2001, feedback indicated their scope was too broad for their spend-out timeframe. Beldon refocused into two program areas—the Key States program and the Human Health and the Environment program. The Beldon Fund made its last grants in June 2008 and closed its doors in 2009, after the completion of the spend-out. Over the last ten years of the fund, Beldon spent $120 million in grants and projects.

The Beldon Fund Records consist of grant proposals, grant reports, notification of grants, board minutes, executive director records, financial and administrative records, and correspondence.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented by the Beldon Fund, December 2006-April 2017. A2008/09-009, A2009/10-012, A2009/10-013, A2016/17-055.

Related Materials

The Dyer-Ives Foundation Records are located at Grand Valley State University Special Collections & University Archives.


The Beldon Fund Homepage:


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Beldon Fund Records, 1954-2015
In Progress
Meg Brown
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Philanthropic Studies Archives Repository

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