Press "Enter" to skip to content

John M. Olin Foundation (1953–2005)

Total Assets (endowment): $120 million

Total Giving: $370 million[1]

Total Giving (2005): $5 million[2]

Prominent Grants:Primarily towards organizations preserving free market ideals. Established the Federalist Society.

Summary: The John M. Olin Foundation was an American grant-making foundation established in 1953 by John M. Olin, president of the Olin Industries chemical and munitions manufacturing business. To preserve donor intent, the Foundation was charged with spending out all of its assets within a generation of Olin’s death.

Its stated mission was to “provide support for projects that reflect or are intended to strengthen the economic, political and cultural institutions upon which the American heritage of constitutional government and private enterprise is based. The Foundation also seeks to promote a general understanding of these institutions by encouraging the thoughtful study of the connections between economic and political freedoms, and the cultural heritage that sustains them.”

The Foundation officially closed out on November 29, 2005, after having dispersed over $370 million to primarily conservative think tanks, media outlets, and law programs at influential universities during its lifetime. The Foundation is most notable for its early support for the law and economics movement and the Federalist Society.

The Foundation is credited with helping to shape the modern conservative movement that first took hold in the 1980s. Perhaps more than any other philanthropist of the modern era, Olin succeeded by clearly defining a mission, establishing a timeline, and carefully selecting dedicated partners who shared his vision[3].