Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Archive of The Funding Exchange

The organization was conceptualized in the late 1970’s by young philanthropists armed with inheritances from the Pillsbury Baking Company, Sunbeam Bread, and DuPont.  Contrary to common philanthropic practice at the time, they included grassroots activists in their grant-making decisions. They created six “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.

In 1979, these foundations officially became the Funding Exchange (FEX) to consolidate their growing resources and set up a national office in New York 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. 

FEX shaped a donor-advised program that helped people with wealth determine which organizations they want to support and administers those grants. Since its beginnings, FEX has grown from six founding funds to 16 member foundations across the country. Today, the 16 member funds remain at the forefront of progressive social justice focused on issues and causes that are typically not funded by traditional sources.  The national office, based in New York City, ceased programmatic operations at the end of 2012.

"Over the last 35 years, the Funding Exchange has seeded and nurtured every important movement for social justice that has come to life in this country,” said Casey Cook, Chair of FEX.  “Evidence of this rich history and lessons learned will be available at Columbia for future generations of activists and social justice philanthropists, and will perpetuate the Funding Exchange's legacy and impact for years to come." 

The FEX archives complement extensive holdings in the RBML related to organized charity, philanthropy, and social work.  Other notable collections in this area include the archives of the Community Service Society, the Union Settlement Association, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York Chamber of Commerce, and the National Child Labor Committee. The Funding Exchange Records include more than 400 boxes of materials, or roughly 600 linear feet.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year.  The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.