OVERVIEW: Overbrook's work is split into two categories: human rights, which includes LGBT issues, and the environment. In prior years, the LGBT grantmaking at Overbrook focused largely on marriage equality as opposed to other LGBT issues, but its focus has broadened since the Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide in the U.S.
IP TAKE: Overbrook has a particularly exclusionary approach to grantmaking. A small number of repeat grantees are awarded funds each year, and unsolicited inquiries or proposals are explicitly discouraged.
PROFILE: The Overbrook Foundation was founded in 1948 by philanthropists Helen and Frank Altschul and provided with an initial endowment of $45 million. In 2001, the New York-based foundation, which had been initially focused primarily on environmental issues, began to "engage professional staff" and formalize its mission as “a progressive family foundation that supports organizations advancing human rights and conserving the natural environment.” It is currently led by foundation President and CEO Stephen A. Foster, who also serves as co-chair of the influential Civil Marriage Collaborative, a network of LGBT funders established by Proteus Fund. Broadly speaking, many grants from Overbrook have been nearly identical year-to-year, both in amount and in purpose.
Overbrook has expanded its funding reach considerably in recent years. The foundation recently reported a total endowment of approximately $166 million and has awarded more than $176 million in grants since its founding, including more than $6 million in a recent year.
LGBT funding at Overbrook falls under the human rights program and until recently focused almost exclusively on marriage equality. Organizations working on this area specifically have included The Civil Marriage Collaborative, Freedom to Marry, Lambda Legal, GLAD and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, while U.S.-based grantees working on LGBT issues beyond marriage equality have included the New York Civil Liberties Union, Forward Together, and Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE). Internationally, Overbrook's stated human rights concentration is on Latin America, and it recently awarded a $30,000 grant under its International Gender Rights focus to the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission to puruse "initiatives to advance LGBT rights across Latin America."
Unfortunately for initial grantseekers, the foundation in recent years has explicitly stated that it "will not accept unsolicited requests for support from organizations not currently funded by the Foundation," and Foster himself stated that Overbrook "continues to discourage letters of inquiry although we remain interested in learning about organizations and projects that, at some future point, could be candidates for Foundation grantmaking."
- Stephen A. Foster, President & CEO