W.K. Kellogg’s compassion and his belief in the promise and the importance of children were clear in the name he chose for the organization he created in 1930: the W.K. Kellogg Child Welfare Foundation. While the organization name was soon shortened to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the focus on protecting, nurturing and supporting opportunities for children has continued to this day.
For much of the 1930s, the Kellogg Foundation’s work was focused mainly on its hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan. The foundation’s very first effort focused on children’s health through the Michigan Community Health Project. 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 the norm.
The Ann J. Kellogg School—named for W.K. Kellogg’s mother— pioneered the practice of teaching children with disabilities alongside children without disabilities. While this was a groundbreaking idea when it opened in 1931, the Ann J. Kellogg School helped make such “mainstreaming” a common practice and is still in operation today.
And in the middle-thirties, the foundation built upon Mr. Kellogg’s concern for education by building schools and outdoor education camps in rural Michigan. At the conclusion of the experiment in 1940, one of these 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.
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-weary Europe, the Kellogg grants helped to revive and modernize farm economies.
By its 25th anniversary, the foundation had seen considerable growth. Its assets stood at $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 post-War concern: the need for more nurses and health care administrators, and the demand for more two-year, community colleges.
Reflecting W.K. Kellogg’s conviction that “education offers the best opportunity for improving one generation over another,” the foundation made a long-term commitment to the fledgling American Association of Junior Colleges (AAJC). Foundation funds helped the AAJC launch a leadership development program which prepared a new generation of community college administrators to help their institutions become 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 expended nearly $500 million to improve health, agriculture, and education on four continents.
In the mid-1980s, the foundation solidified 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. Program areas such as philanthropy and volunteerism, and food systems and rural development reflected an evolution of the foundation’s grantmaking, based on changing social needs.
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: improved record keeping, communications, and workplace efficiency. And the foundation’s grantmaking also sought 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 stood at nearly $6 billion. And during those 75 years, the Foundation spent more than $3 billion to help people help themselves.
But as Mr. Kellogg once said, “dollars do not produce character.” Even as its assets have continued to grow, the foundation itself has evolved, continually seeking new and more effective ways to advance its vision of “a nation that marshals its resources to assure that all children have an equitable and promising future - a nation in which all children thrive.”
To that end, in 2007, the foundation adopted a new mission statement aimed at refocusing its work on helping vulnerable children, and realigning itself with W.K. Kellogg’s original intent. The new statement reads: “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 better leverage its assets, while preserving and growing its endowment. By implementing a pilot program of mission-driven investments the foundation is investing its assets in a way that realizes both financial and social returns, a concept also known as “double bottom-line investing.”
By 2008, the foundation’s assets had reached more than $8 billion, from W.K. Kellogg’s initial investment of $66 million.
Recently, the foundation took another step toward realizing its vision by adopting a new strategic framework for its programming. Previously, both the organization and its grantmaking were structured around individual programming areas. Building on nearly 80 years of experience, the new framework recognizes that success for vulnerable children depends on an intricate weave of elements. Our programming emphases on Education & Learning; Food, Health & Well-Being; and Family Economic Security all play interconnected roles in creating an environment in which vulnerable children are protected, nurtured, equipped and stimulated to succeed.
The new framework also recognizes that the active pursuit of racial equity, the eradication of structural racism, and the rigorous encouragement of civic and philanthropic engagement are essential to creating a social context in which all children can thrive, including the most vulnerable.
With this new framework, and a sharpened focus on the nearly 30 million vulnerable children in the United States, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has reaffirmed its commitment to W.K. Kellogg’s goal in creating the foundation in 1930: “...to help children face the future with confidence, with health, and with a strong-rooted security in the trust of this country and its institutions."