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Stern Family Fund (1992–2005)

Total Assets (2005): $806,158

Total Giving (2005): $311,500

Prominent Grants: Among the many recent recipients of Stern Family Fund grants are: the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); the Center for Media and DemocracyDemos: A Network for Ideas and Action; the San Francisco Foundation Community Initiative Funds (for; the Proteus FundPublic Citizen; the Public Justice Foundation; and the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center.

Summary: Philip M. Stern (grandson of Sears, Roebuck & Company Chairman Julius Rosenwald) established the Stern Family Fund — arranging for it to be endowed immediately upon his death, which occurred in 1992. In the tradition of his grandfather, Stern stipulated that his Foundation should cease operations within a generation after his death, so as to prevent it from someday, under the leadership of his successors, embracing philanthropic priorities inconsistent with his particular values and ideals. In accordance with his wish, the Stern Family Fund closed its doors in 2007. “We inherited this belief from my great-grandfather,” says David Stern, son of Philip and current President of the Stern Family Fund. “Foundations [typically] become almost more interested in their own preservation than in doing the social change work they were set up to do.”

The Stern Family Fund stated mission was “to [aid] citizens striving to guarantee responsiveness of public and private institutions that wield substantial power over their lives.” The Stern Family Fund oversaw two distinct grant-making programs. One, called Public Interest Pioneers, provided large grants that served as seed money for the creation of new organizations or the development of new projects within existing organizations. The second, called the Strategic Opportunity program, provided smaller grants to aid existing groups that had specific and immediate financial needs.