History & Legacy

Establishing the Foundation

While the organization’s name was soon shortened to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, its emphasis on protecting, nurturing and supporting opportunities for children has continued.

For much of the 1930s, the Kellogg Foundation worked mainly in and around its hometown of Battle Creek, Mich. Its very first effort focused on children’s health through the Michigan Community Health Project (MCHP). The MCHP served seven counties in south central Michigan. It was a comprehensive effort that targeted K-12 education and public health in rural communities where one-room schoolhouses and outdoor privies were still common.

The Ann J. Kellogg School – named for Mr. Kellogg’s mother – pioneered the practice of teaching children with disabilities alongside children without. While this was a groundbreaking idea when it opened in 1931, the Ann J. Kellogg School helped make such “mainstreaming” a common practice and it continues to operate.

Reflecting Mr. Kellogg’s conviction that “Education offers the best opportunity for improving one generation over another,” in the mid-1930s the foundation experimented with outdoor education by building schools and outdoor camps in rural Michigan. At the conclusion of the experiment in 1940, one of the camps at Clear Lake became the first year-round public school camp in the state, making outdoor education an integral part of the participating schools’ curriculum.

W.K. Kellogg

Foundation Growth

During the early years of World War II, the Kellogg Foundation expanded its grants beyond Michigan and the United States. More than 450 study fellowships for Latin American health professionals paved the way for extensive programming in the Southern Hemisphere. In war-damaged Europe, Kellogg grants helped revive and modernize farm economies.

Mr. Kellogg died in 1951, at age 91. But virtually until the day of his death, he was interested in and well-informed about the workings of the Kellogg Foundation, which continued to grow. By the foundation’s 25th anniversary, its assets totaled $124 million. Its annual “payout,” the amount spent for charitable purposes, had skyrocketed from $26,000 in 1930 to $4.4 million in 1955. In its programming, the foundation focused on key areas of postwar concern: the need for more nurses and health care administrators, and the demand for more two-year, community colleges.

Further reflecting Mr. Kellogg’s belief in education, the foundation made a long-term commitment to the then-new American Association of Junior Colleges (AAJC). The AAJC’s foundation-funded leadership development program prepared a generation of community college administrators to help make their institutions more effective and inclusive in serving their communities.

The foundation’s steady growth continued during the 1960s and 1970s. By its 50th anniversary in 1980, the foundation was among the world’s largest private philanthropic organizations. Since its creation, the foundation had invested nearly $500 million to improve health, agriculture and education on four continents.

New Opportunities

In the mid-1980s, the foundation enhanced its international reputation by expanding its programming into southern Africa. In the face of apartheid, college bursaries (scholarships) from the Kellogg Foundation gave unprecedented opportunities to black South Africans. Changing social needs also prompted an evolution in the foundation’s grantmaking, resulting in the creation of program areas including philanthropy and volunteerism, and food systems and rural development.

The 1990s brought the boom years of the “new economy.” Like most modern organizations, the Kellogg Foundation was quick to exploit the benefits of information technology, including improved record keeping, communications and workplace efficiency. The foundation also used grantmaking to narrow the digital divide – reaching out to the millions of people who lacked access to technology because of poverty, illiteracy or geographic isolation.

By its 75th anniversary in 2005, the foundation’s assets totaled nearly $6 billion. And during those 75 years, the foundation had granted more than $3 billion.

But as Mr. Kellogg once said, “Dollars do not produce character.” As its assets have grown, the foundation has continued to seek more effective ways to advance its vision of a world “in which all children thrive.”

An Evolving Foundation

In order to refocus on vulnerable children and renew its commitment to Mr. Kellogg’s original intent, in 2007 the foundation adopted its current mission statement: “The W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families, and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society.”

In 2007, the foundation also became one of a small group of foundations seeking to use its assets more effectively while preserving and growing its endowment. Under a pilot program of mission driven investments, the foundation is investing assets in a way that realizes both financial and social returns, a concept also known as “double bottom-line investing.”

By 2012, the foundation’s assets had grown more to more than $7 billion, more than 100 times Mr. Kellogg’s initial investment of $66 million.

The foundation took another step toward realizing its vision by adopting a new strategic framework. Previously, both the organization and its grantmaking were structured around individual programming areas.

Legacy Essays

Putting Children First

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