Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy Records, 1949-1970

Mss 23
6.4 c.f. (6 cartons, 1 pamphlet box, 1 cassette box)
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The Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy was formed by John D. Rockefeller, III, in 1969, and chaired by Peter Peterson, to objectively investigate foundations and their role in society. The Peterson Commission, as it was known, was designed to be influenced by neither the government nor the foundations they investigated. An objective appraisal of foundation activities was necessary to give the Commission the credibility it needed to influence Congress' decisions on foundation activities. By researching the roles of foundations in society, the members hoped to construct policy recommendations that made foundations more accountable while allowing them to maintain their independence from outside interference.

This collection contains meeting minutes, correspondence, reports, speeches, the House of Representatives and Senate Hearings on the Tax Reform Law, and the foundation research collected by the commission that includes annual reports, surveys, articles, and correspondence.


This collection is open to the public without restriction. The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.


Cite as: The Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy Records, 1949-1970, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.


Presented by Independent Sector, June 9, 1992. A92-18, A93-76.

Processed by Debra Brookhart, June 1998.


After World War II, foundations fell under attack by both the public and the government. Stories about foundation abuses of funds and their tax-exempt status caused many to believe that foundations were not doing their part in American society. In a time of rising taxes, people were suspicious of any entity that did not pay their share in taxes. Serious opposition to foundations and the privileges they held arose. The general impression of foundations was that they were secretive organizations with no accountability to the public they served. Accountability was difficult to measure when the public had little access to information about foundations' activities. In 1956, the Foundation Center Library (later renamed the Foundation Center) was formed to become a source of information about foundations throughout the nation. It contained information about foundations and made them more accessible to those interested in the activities of foundations. The Foundation Center Library did not, however, bring an end to Americans' discontent with foundations.

By 1965, the federal government made its problems with foundations public with a report given to the House Ways and Means Committee by the Department of Treasury. The Treasury Report on Private Foundations of 1965 asked for the United States government to intervene in the actions of foundations and force them to become more accountable through a series of tax laws that would assure the tax-exempt status of foundations would no longer be abused. The recommendations published in the Department of Treasury's report included:

  1. Prohibiting financial transactions (self-dealing) between a foundation and its contributors, officers, directors, or trustees.
  2. Limiting the period during which a foundation may withhold income from charity.
  3. Limiting the ownership of stock to less than 20 percent in any business.
  4. Limiting the use of a foundation to maintain family control over a business.
  5. Barring speculative practices by foundations, such as borrowing money for investment purposes, etc.
  6. Broadening the base of foundation management after the first 25 years of a foundation's life, so that after that time the donor or related parties could not make up more than 25 percent of the foundation's governing body.


In 1968, John D. Rockefeller, III, brought together a group of concerned people to discuss the possibility of conducting an independent appraisal of philanthropy in America and to decide what the long-range goals of foundations and philanthropy should be. Alan Pifer of the Carnegie Corporation suggested the formation of an independent commission to study these issues and to help initiate a compromise between the government and foundations.

Mounting public demand for tax reform measures prompted Rockefeller, as a representative of foundations, to ask Peter J. Peterson to establish a commission to conduct fair and impartial research on foundations. In 1969, the Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy chaired by Peter J. Peterson, chairman of the board of Bell and Howell, was formed. The ultimate goal was to influence policy decisions that would increase the accountability of foundations while not smothering them out of existence with strict laws that were detrimental to the foundations that were attempting to govern themselves in a respectable manner. In order to reach this goal, the Commission chose not to accept funding from the government or from foundations. Instead, it was funded by individuals, corporations, and unions. Commission members believed this plan to be the best way to assure people they worked for the benefit of the public and their recommendations were for the benefit of both the government and foundations.

Peterson selected influential citizens who had expertise in diverse fields and professions, including business and the arts, academics, politicians, government administration, advocacy work, and law, to participate. Fifteen people served on the Commission in addition to the chairman. As recorded in the Commission's Report, members include:

  1. J. Paul Austin. Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta.
  2. Daniel Bell. Professor of Sociology, Harvard University; author; Chairman, Commission on the Year 2000 of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; member, President's Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress.
  3. Daniel P. Bryant. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Bekins Van and Storage Company, Los Angeles; lawyer.
  4. James Chambers. President and Publisher, Dallas Times-Herald; author.
  5. Sheldon S. Cohen. Cohen and Uretz; former Commissioner of Internal Revenue, U.S. Treasury Department.
  6. Thomas B. Curtis. Vice-President and General Counsel, Encyclopedia Britannica; former U.S. Representative from Second Congressional District, Missouri, and member of House Ways and Means Committee, Joint Economic Committee.
  7. Paul A. Freund. Professor, Harvard University Law School; expert in constitutional law; author; editor-in-chief of multi volume History of the Supreme Court, now in preparation, commissioned by the U.S. Congress; Past President, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  8. Martin Friedman, Director, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; American Fine Arts Commissioner, Sao Paulo Dienal; member, National Collection of Fine Arts Commission; author and lecturer on contemporary international art.
  9. Patricia Roberts Harris. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver, and Kampelman; member, National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence; former Dean and Professor, Howard University Law School; former U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg.
  10. A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., U.S. District Court Judge, Eastern District of Pennsylvania; Vice-chairman, National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence; former commissioner, Federal Trade Commission; member, White House Conference to Fulfill These Rights; member, Commission on Reform of U.S. Criminal Law.
  11. Lane Kirkland. Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
  12. Philip R. Lee, M.D. Chancellor, University of California, San Francisco; former Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
  13. Edward H. Levi. President, University of Chicago; former law professor, Dean of the Law School; past member, White House Task Force on Education, White House Central Group in Domestic Affairs; author.
  14. Franklin A. Long. Director for Program on Science, Technology, and Society, Cornell University; former member, President's Science Advisory Committee; former assistant director, U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament agency.
  15. A.S. Mike Monroney. Consultant, Aviation and Transportation; former U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative from Oklahoma; former chairman, Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committee, and member, Senate Appropriations Committee.


The fifteen members of the Commission were for responsible for both research and reporting. Members gathered information through interviews with foundation leaders, surveys of foundation activities, and research of individual foundations using annual reports and meeting minutes. This information was used for discussion at the six monthly board meetings which focused on subjects such as types of foundations, politics, tax issues, and finances. At each meeting, papers were presented and discussed by both members and non-members of the Commission. Using this information, the Commission was able to write a report making recommendations to the foundations and the government. The recommendations of the Commission were:

  1. Foundations should be required to make a higher payout, 6% to 8% of investment earnings, to established charities and nonprofit organizations.
  2. The Internal Revenue Service should audit foundations regularly to ensure their fiscal integrity.
  3. Foundations should make full public disclosure of their activities by disseminating annual reports more widely.
  4. Tax incentives are needed to boost contributions to foundations and charities.
  5. To remove any taint of impropriety, foundations must keep partisan politics out of the grant making process, and full disclosure is needed for grants to government employees.
  6. A national Philanthropic Policy Board should be established, consisting of ten to fifteen distinguished private citizens and government officials, to render informed decisions and sound judgement on questions of public debate concerning philanthropy.


The recommendations and research of the Commission were partially designed to influence Congressional opinions of foundations. Congress had constructed a reform bill that charged foundations with hoarding, squandering, and manipulating funds. Members of the Commission felt foundations needed an advocate in Congress and made recommendations that would assure the accountability of foundations while keeping them from direct government control. Commission members spoke before Congressional committees and pushed for a modified version of the original bill using the Commission's recommendations. The end result of the Commission was a published report of its research that answered questions about the role of philanthropy in society, the needs of foundations, tax incentives for giving to foundations, the abuse of foundations, and what foundations do as American institutions. The Tax Reform Bill of 1969 was passed, however, before the report could be completed. Although problems remained, the Commission and the Tax Reform Bill of 1969 were steps toward a better relationship between the government, the public, and foundations. The Commission disbanded in 1970 after the publication of its report, Foundations, Private Giving, and Public Policy.


Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy. Foundations, Private Giving, and Public Policy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Hall, P.D. "Teaching and Research on Philanthropy, Voluntarism, and Nonprofit Organizations:A Case Study of Academic Innovation," Teachers College Register. Spring 1992, 403-436.

Subcommittee Chairman's Report to Subcommittee No.1. Tax-Exempt Foundations and Charitable Trusts: Their Impact on our Economy. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966.


Independent Sector Records, 1980-1991, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

Filer Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs Records, 1971-1976, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.


The records of the Peterson Commission are divided into three series; Administration Files, Final Report, and Research Files. Since the Commission was only in existence for two years, most of the records cover the years 1969-1970. Its final report, Foundations, Private Giving, and Public Policy (call number: HV 91.C67), was published in 1970, completing the original goal of the Commission. The collection contains meeting minutes, correspondence, reports, surveys, and publications.

Administration Files, 1969-1970, contain information regarding the Board of Trustees, the incorporation of the commission, general correspondence, a listing of the major contributors to the organization, and the work plan for the Commission. Records of the Board of Trustees contain meeting minutes and the methods the founders used to find people to serve on the Commission. The Commission held one board meeting each month from May-October 1969. These meetings were recorded and transcribed verbatim with the exception of the month of May, which was only a summary.

The Corporate Records contain the incorporation and bylaws of the Commission. To gain an understanding about the Commission, these records summarize briefly the purposes and procedures adopted by the board through correspondence between members.

Final Report Records, 1969-1970, is the end result of the Commission's work. The Commission's main product was the construction of a final report that would describe the state of the relationship between foundations, the public, and the government. This series contains press releases, summaries, and rough drafts of the report. Although the rough drafts are similar to the final copy, they contain differences that diagram the evolution of the Commission's work and indicate major changes in ideas that further research created. The published version of the report, Foundations, Private Giving, and Public Policy (call number: HV91.C67) is located in the Joseph and Matthew Payton Philanthropic Studies Library of the IUPUI University Library.

Research Files, 1949-1970, are the largest and most diverse records of the Commission documenting its major activities in research and fact-finding. In order to make recommendations regarding the accountability and tax-exempt status of foundations, the Commission had to be aware of the activities of those foundations. The Commission used surveys, interviews which are not available to this collection, and information directly from foundations, to write its report.

The conference material is from the 1969 New York University's Conference on Charitable Foundations. Themes selected for the conference included grant making, foundation policy, and issues regarding taxation procedures. These records contain lectures, papers, and discussions about foundations, philanthropy, and politics.

Foundations were the central focus of the Commission. Most of the research conducted pertained to foundations. The research is divided into twelve categories that became discussion topics for the monthly board meetings. Rather than gather all of the information at once, the board assigned people with expertise in a specific area and devoted one month to each of the selected topics. They had less than six months to research these issues:

  1. Accomplishments of Foundations
  2. Community Foundations
  3. Company Foundations
  4. Disclosure
  5. Financial Policy of Foundations
  6. Foundations Management
  7. Foundations Publications
  8. Government/Foundations Relationship
  9. Government Regulations
  10. Political Activities
  11. Self-Regulation
  12. Types of Foundations


These records contain internal reports written by members of the Commission, and external reports written by knowledgeable people outside the Commission. Reports gathered were used to decide what foundations were doing and how people reacted to the activities. The records also contain correspondence, articles, annual reports, and information published by foundations.

The Report Files contain general reports, miscellaneous speeches, and magazine articles. Although reports are also included in the foundation materials under specific headings, these reports focus on topics relating to foundations, taxation, and the government that were not discussed in the foundation records.

The Survey Files include examples of questionnaires from each survey project, the tallied results, and some reports describing the conclusions drawn from the surveys. Using surveys, the Commission was able to determine the revenue and expenditures of all the foundations polled, who was giving, the effects the new tax might have on incentives to give, and whether or not abuses were occurring in foundations. The six surveys are the Accountant's Survey, Opinion Leaders Survey, Large Donors Survey, Market Facts (or Company) Survey, the Chicago Philanthropic Study, and the Tabulation of Sample of 990-A's. Results and data collected by the surveys are available in the collection for every survey except the Chicago Philanthropic Study and the Tabulation of Sample of 990-A's. The only item available concerning the Chicago Philanthropic Study in the collection is the questionnaire, and no information is available in the collection about the Tabulation of Sample 990-A's. Summaries and results of all six surveys, however, can be found in the Commission's final report on pages 191-255.

The last two subseries in the research files deal with tax legislation and tax issues. This series contains both official government documents and general reports and papers referring to tax issues. Official documents from both the Senate and House of Representatives include hearings, debates, proposals and all fifteen parts of the Tax Reform Bill of 1969.


Administration, 1969-1970  
 Board of Trustees  
  Meeting Minutes, May-October 196911-14
  Recordings of Proceedings, 1969  
   Cassette Tapes, June 27-28, July 25-2661-15
   Reels, June 27-28, July 25-2671-4
  Search for Commission Members, February-June, 1969115
 Corporate Records  
  Incorporation, May 1969116
  Purpose for National Commission on Philanthropic Foundations, 1969117
  Correspondence with Commission Members, 1969- 1970118
  General, April 1969-December 1970119-22
 Finances, Contributors to Commission, October-November 1969123
 Work Plans, 1969124
Final Report, 1969-1970   
 Outlines of the Final Report, 196921
 Preliminary Draft of the Final Report, October 3, 196922
 Preliminary Report, October 1, 196923
 Press Release, October 26, 196924
 Reactions to Final Report Draft, March-July 197025
 Summary of the Report, n.d.26
Research Files, 1949-1970  
 Conferences - New York University 9th Biennial Charitable Foundations Conference, May 19-20, 1969  
  Lectures and Discussions, May 19-20, 196927
  Transcripts of Conference, May 19-20, 196928
  Accomplishments of Foundations  
   Correspondence, June-August, 196929
   External Reports, 1969210-12
   Pamphlets and Articles, 1969213
   Proposals, n.d.214
   Survey of Noteworthy Grants, 1969215
  Community Foundations  
   Press Releases and Articles, 1969-1970216
  Company Foundations  
   Correspondence, June-October 1969217
   External Reports, 1965, 1969218
   Articles, 1969219
   Correspondence, July-September 1969220
   Task Force, September 1969221
  Financial Policy of Foundations  
   Correspondence, July-September 1969222
   External Reports, August-September 1969223
  Foundation Management  
   Articles, 1967-1969224
   Correspondence, August-September 1969225
   External Reports, 1969226-27
   Internal Reports, July 1969228
  Foundation Publications  
   Alfred Sloan Foundation Annual Report, 1968229
   American Association of Fund-Raising Council  
    Annual Reports, 1968230
    “Bulletin,” 1969-1970231
   American Hospital Association Journal, August 1, 1969232
   Association of the Bar of the City of New York Record, 1967233
   Battelle Memorial Institute, April 1969234
   Bericht, 196731
   Bjorksten Research Foundation 1965-196832
   Carnegie Corporation Annual Report, 196933
   Carnegie Institution, 196934
   Chicago Community Trust, 1949-196835
   The Cleveland Foundation, 1967-196836
   The Conservation Foundation, 1967-196837
   Cooper Foundation, 1967-196838
   Council for Financial Aid to Education, 196939
   Council on Foundations, 1967-1968310
   Die Bedeutung von freien Stiftungen im Gesellschaftsleben der Bundesrepublik, 1967311
   Duties and Powers of Charitable Foundations, 1966312
   Fannie E. Rippel Foundation, 1965-1969313
   Ford Foundation  
    Annual Reports, 1967-1968314
    Bylaws and Endowment Funds, 1968- 1969315
   Foundation Library Center  
    Annual Reports, 1967-1969316
    “Foundation News,” 1968-1969317
   Fund for the City of New York Annual Report, 1969318
   General Electric Annual Report, 1968319
   Hill Foundation Annual Report, 1968320
   Hogg Foundation, 1968321
   Houston Endowment, n.d.322
   Institute on Government and Public Affairs, 1968323
   Maurice Falk Medical Fund Review and Evaluation, 1969324
   Moody Foundation Report, 1966-1967325
   Nuffield Foundation Report, 1966-1967326
   Pamphlets, 1969327
   Research Corporation Report, 1968328
   Richard King Mellon Foundation Report, 1966-1967329
   Rockefeller Foundation, 1969330
   Russell Sage Foundation, 1965331
   Samuel S. Fels Fund, 1965-1967332
   Sears-Roebuck Foundation, 1968333
   Spaulding-Potter Charitable Trust  
    Annual Reports, 1967-1968334
    Meetings, May, December 1967335-37
    Pamphlets, 1968-1969338
   Stiftungspolitik, 1967339
   Wiebolt Foundation Annual Report, 1968340
   William H. Donnor Foundation, 1968341
   Woods Charitable Fund Report, 1965-1966342
  Government/Foundation Relationship  
   External Reports, 1965-1969343
   Ford Foundation Programs, 1965344
  Government Regulation  
   Articles, 1969345
   Correspondence, September-October 1969346
   Internal Reports, July-October 1969347-48
  Political Activities  
   Correspondence, 1969349
   External Reports, 1969350
   Proposals, 196941
   Reports, 196942
   Correspondence, 1968-196943
   External Reports, 196944
  Types of Foundations  
   Correspondence, April-June 196945
   External Reports, 196946-7
   Internal Reports, 196948
  Articles Collected by the Commission, 1962-196949
  Reports Collected by the Commission, March- September 1969410-11
  Speeches Collected by the Commission, May-July 1969412
  Staff Reports, July-October 1969413-16
  Accountant’s Survey, 1969417
  Chicago Philanthropic Study, 1969418
  Foundations Survey (Market Facts Survey), 1969419
  Large Donor’s Survey, 1969420
  Survey of Distinguished Citizens (Opinion Leaders), 1969421
 Tax Issues  
  Correspondence, June-October 1969422
  External Reports, August-September 1969423
  Foundations and the Federal Income Tax Law, August-September 1969424
  Foundations as Philanthropic Intermediaries, July 21, 1969425
  Legal Regulations, 1966-1968426
  Regulation of Foundations, August 27, 1969427
  Statements on Foundations Made to Senate Finance Committee, September 1969428
  Tax Exemption, 1967, 1969429
  Tax Incentives, 1969-1970430
  Tax Journals, 1967, 1969431
  Tax on the Net Investment Income of Private Foundations, August 29, 1969432
  Tax Reform, February 19, 1969433
 Tax Legislation  
  Joint Committee of the House and Senate  
   The Tax-Exempt Organization - A Practical Guide, 1969434
   Tax Reform Studies and Proposals, U.S. Treasury Department, February 5, 1969435
  United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means  
   Hearings of the Committee of Ways and Means, February 18 - April 24, 196951
   Revenue Act of 1969 - A Summary of the President’s Tax Reform Proposals with a Treasury Technical Explanation, 196952
   Supplemental Report, 196953
   Tax-Exempt Foundations and Charitable Trusts: Their Impact on Our Economy (parts 1-7), 1962-196954-9
   Tax Reform Act (parts 1-15), 1969510-17
   Tax Reform Bill, 1969518
  United States Senate Committee on Finance  
   Committee on Finance, 1969519
   Tax Reform Act Meeting, October 6-8, 22, 1969520-23
   Tax Reform Bill of 1969524
Updated Jan 20, 2016 by Editor Name Missing