- Assets: $415,102,143 (2009)
- Grants Awarded: $19,944,000 (2009)
The founder and namesake of the Nathan Cummings Foundation was the owner of Consolidated Foods, which later became the Sara Lee Corporation. When he died in 1985, Mr. Cummings bequeathed the majority of his $200 million estate to his Foundation, which he had established in 1949. His eldest grandson, James K. Cummings, is the Foundation's current Board Chairman. He has presided over a gradual move on the part of the Foundation to a leftist philosophy of giving.
Nathan Cummings was a Jewish immigrant who believed it was vital "to build a better future for all by preserving the democratic integrity of society and insuring the well-being and security of the American community." He established his Foundation on the conviction that "we must contribute to worthy causes, thus sharing our good fortune with those less fortunate than we are." He contributed to mainstream American and Jewish groups and supported the nascent nation of Israel through gifts to such organizations as United Jewish Appeal; he also made grants to various universities, medical centers, and hospitals.
Cummings set up his Foundation not only as an outlet for his philanthropic spirit, but also because he wanted to create something that would keep his children and grandchildren working together creatively and altruistically for many years. Initially he ran the Foundation himself; his children became actively involved only after he died. However, Nathan Cummings had left no specific instructions regarding where he wanted the Foundation's money directed; he stipulated only in general terms that it should be used for "charitable, . . . educational, scientific, literary, religious, and artistic purposes." After Cummings’ death, his children, along with his lawyer and accountant, who were Nathan's trusted advisors during his life, became Trustees of the Foundation. They hired a foundation consultant to help them define a mission for the Foundation.
After several months of guidance from the foundation consultant and a year of squabbling among themselves, the Trustees settled on three major areas of giving -- health care, Jewish life, and the arts -- which were the original areas of Nathan Cummings’ giving. The grandchildren then began to play a larger role in shaping the Foundation's grant-making policies, and they created a fourth area of giving -- to environmentalist organizations -- on the theory that "somewhere down the line … there [won't] be any breathable air left." The environmentalist groups funded by the Cummings Foundation are predominantly those that espouse radical environmentalism, a phenomenon which, as writer Michael Berliner has explained, seeks "not clean air and clean water, [but] rather … the demolition of technological/industrial civilization."
The Cummings Foundation currently describes its four main giving programs as follows:
Health Program: This program favors taxpayer-funded universal healthcare, on grounds that “a nation’s commitment to equal access to healthcare is a reflection of its commitment to equal opportunity for all.” “Wealth and income are the greatest determinants of health,” adds the Foundation. “… Although health factors that are inherited and exacerbated by low- to moderate-socioeconomic status cannot be completely undone by access to quality healthcare and a healthy environment, increased access can ameliorate the physical and psychological consequences of social and economic injustice.”
Jewish Life and Values Program: This program seeks to strengthen “the capacity of the community to work effectively for social and economic justice, both in the United States and Israel.”
Arts and Culture Program: “Our new objectives represent an expanded vision that acknowledges the roles that artists and cultural workers play in stimulating social change and championing economic justice in both traditional and non-traditional venues. By addressing art through the lens of social justice, we will continue to affirm artists and arts institutions that value and encourage creativity, innovation and risk-taking while fostering cross-cultural conversations that transcend race, ethnicity, class, age and geography.”
Environment/Contemplative Practice Programs: “Measures such as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, have been effective to a point, yet are not comprehensive enough to deal with the overall threats to the environment and their impact on our health.”
Viewing the United States as a nation rife with inequities against minorities, the Cummings Foundation’s mission is “to build a socially and economically just society that values nature and protects the ecological balance for future generations; promotes humane health care; and fosters arts and culture that enriches communities.” It places special emphasis on “concern for the poor, disadvantaged, and underserved; respect for diversity; promotion of understanding across cultures; and empowerment of communities in need.”
The Cummings Foundation is a member organization of the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG), a network of more than six-dozen grantmakers dedicated to funding leftwing groups and causes.
Lance Lindblom, who served as the Cummings Foundation’s president and CEO until he retired in 2011 (after more than a decade at the helm), had worked for George Soros’s Open Society Institute prior to joining Cummings.
Among the many recent recipients of Nathan Cummings Foundation grants are: Alliance for Justice; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Institute for Social Justice, Inc.; the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN); the Brookings Institution; the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; the Center for Community Change; the Council on Foundations; the Earth Island Institute; Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund; the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights; the Environmental Defense Fund; Environmental Media Services; Environmental Working Group; Friends of the Earth; Global Green USA; the Jewish Fund for Justice; the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; the League of Conservation Voters; the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; the National Religious Partnership for the Environment; the National Wildlife Federation; the National Women’s Law Center; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the New America Foundation; the New World Foundation; People for the American Way; Physicians for Social Responsibility; the Proteus Fund; the Public Citizen Foundation; Rainforest Action Network; Rainforest Alliance; the Service Employees International Union Education and Support Fund; the Shefa Fund; the Sierra Club; State Voices; the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center; the Union of Concerned Scientists; the Trust for Public Land; the Urban Institute; the U.S. Public Interest Research Group; the Waterkeeper Alliance; the Wilderness Society; the William J. Brennan Center for Justice; and the World Resources Institute.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, click here.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)