The Wallace Foundation was born out of the vision of DeWitt and Lila Wallace. In addition to their philanthropy, the Wallaces may be best known for founding Reader’s Digest magazine, the first issue of which the newlyweds assembled “in an office under a Greenwich Village speakeasy” in 1921, according to a brochure assembled by The New York Community Trust.
As the success of Reader’s Digest was established, both Wallaces pursued philanthropic passions that can be seen in the work of their eponymous foundation today. As it stands, the foundation is actually the product of a consolidation of four different funds established by Lila and DeWitt with stock from Reader’s Digest. By the late 1980s, the four had already been funneled into two funds: “DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. Their missions were revised to concentrate on education and youth for DeWitt, and arts and culture for Lila,” according to the foundation’s website.
In the early 2000s, the two finally merged into one national foundation, The Wallace Foundation, which still reflects the core values and aims of its namesakes. With a mission “to foster improvements in learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children and the vitality of the arts for everyone,” The Wallace Foundation emphasizes “making change” over “doing good,” which means it has a focus on not just funding programs or projects in its core service areas, but supporting development of practices and research that can affect change in these areas on a broader scale.
Major Program Categories: Wallace has six core service areas it focuses on in an effort to make change: afterschool, arts education, building audiences for the arts, expanded learning, school leadership and summer learning.
It views grantees working in these fields through the lens of three additional program categories: “the organizations we fund to develop and test possible solutions to important public problems; the researchers whom we commission to contribute to the field’s knowledge and to help evaluate what is and is not working; and the organizations that help us get both issues and solutions before policymakers, field leaders and those who can otherwise influence policy and practice.”
For this reason, in addition to actual funding, a significant part of The Wallace Foundation’s contributions include research and filling gaps in knowledge, and supporting the field of philanthropy itself through learning opportunities.
Each of Wallace’s core service areas has the potential to serve vulnerable children and impact the communities in which they grow up. It is worth noting that the foundation’s form 990 shows grants awarded to a wide array of projects across the country, and also across sectors, including both nonprofits and government agencies as grant recipients. Click here for a detailed list of grantees, and information about projects The Wallace Foundation has supported.
How to Apply: According to the foundation’s website, “unsolicited proposals are rarely funded,” as the foundation aims to identify specific problems or gaps in knowledge in the field, and then issue requests for proposals and do outreach.
One way the foundation suggests staying connected is to sign up for Wallace’s newsletter. It also points toward the foundation’s knowledge center, which highlights research and projects it has completed for use in the field.
Name of Foundation: The Wallace Foundation
Location: New York, NY
Contact Information: Phone – 212.251.9700, or via online form here.
Coverage Area: National
Subject Area: Afterschool, arts education, building audiences for the arts, expanded learning, school leadership and summer learning
Assets: $1,450,121,796 (2015)
Last Year Total Grants Paid: $55,257,205 (2015)
Recent News and Grantmaking: