Philanthropy with a difference

In the early 1970s, a group of young people–with consciences shaped by Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement, and armed with inheritances from the Pillsbury Baking Company, Sunbeam Bread, and DuPont–created a group of institutions that laid the ground for an entirely new kind of philanthropy.

These new philanthropists not only gave away money, but they gave up control by including grassroots activists in their grant-making decisions. They created a half-dozen “alternative” foundations around the country: Bread and Roses Community Fund, Haymarket People’s Fund, Liberty Hill Foundation, McKenzie River Gathering Foundation, North Star Fund, and Vanguard Public Foundation.

Change, not Charity

In 1979, these foundations created the Funding Exchange (FEX) to consolidate their growing resources and provide a national office to further advance the alternative philanthropy movement. FEX and its member funds have provided lead funding for organizations in virtually every contemporary movement for progressive social change. Our grantees:



  • Led the battle against domestic violence.
  • Propelled the movement for lesbian and gay civil rights.
  • Helped launch the environmental justice movement.
  • Organized against globalization long before it became a buzzword.
  • Began the living wage campaigns that led to a national movement.
  • Led education and youth projects on the cutting edge of social change.

Power in Numbers

FEX worked with a handful of donor-activists to shape a donor-advised program that helps people with wealth determine which organizations they want to support and administers those grants. Over the past 30+ years the Funding Exchange has grown from those first six founding funds to sixteen member foundations across the country, who give away over $15 million annually. Today, our 16 member funds remain at the forefront of progressive social justice focused on issues and causes that are typically not funded by traditional funding sources.