Ninety percent of the private money received by nonprofit groups is donated by individuals. The rest—approximately $710 million in 1995 and greater but still unaudited amounts in 1996 and 1997—is distributed annually by the state’s 2,400 or so foundations. Foundation boards respond to grant requests and anticipate community needs by initiating and funding programs. The Meadows Foundation in Dallas, for instance, has restored a cluster of Victorian homes and converted warehouses in the Wilson Historic District, providing rent-free office space to more than thirty nonprofit organizations, and Galveston’s Moody Foundation has spent at least $200 million on Moody Gardens, an educational and entertainment complex. Some foundations contribute to a broad array of causes; others narrowly focus on the founder’s area of interest (hence the emphasis on chemical research by Houston’s Robert A. Welch Foundation).
According to the Nonprofit Resource Center of Texas, the following foundations ranked first through tenth in 1995. (The assets listed are from 1996, because they are the most recent comparable amounts available.) Though the rankings shift from year to year, the list serves as a rough predictor of contributions; all nonprofit foundations are required to give away a fixed percentage of their assets. Each foundation’s history and its significant gifts suggest its giving philosophy, and notable trustees may or may not be players when it comes to handing out the money.
1. Houston Endowment
SIGNIFICANT GIFTS: $12 million to the University of Texas at Austin toward the construction of a new art museum; $7.5 million to the Houston Music Hall Foundation toward the construction of a new theater. Arts and cultural programs received the largest individual gifts, but nearly half of the Houston Endowment’s grants in 1996 went to educational programs.
HISTORY: Created in 1937 by Jesse H. Jones and Mary Gibbs Jones. Mr. Jones was instrumental in boosting Houston’s economy in the early part of the century, building its skyline and setting a standard for public service. Mrs. Jones’s commitment to philanthropy continues to drive the foundation’s philosophy of giving.
NOTABLE TRUSTEES: Houston oilman Jack S. Blanton, a past chair of the University of Texas System Board of Regents; art patron Audrey Jones Beck, a granddaughter of the Joneses.
2. The Brown Foundation
SIGNIFICANT GIFTS: $11.8 million to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; more than $3 million to Rice University in Houston; $2.8 million to Southwestern University in Georgetown; $1 million to the Children’s Museum of Houston.
HISTORY: Created in 1951 by Herman and Margarett Root Brown and George R. and Alice Pratt Brown. Herman Brown was the president of Brown and Root, one of the world’s largest construction and engineering firms, and when he died in 1962, he bequeathed the bulk of his estate to the foundation. George R. Brown subsequently took over Brown and Root and served as the president and a trustee of the foundation until his death in 1983. notable trustees: Sibling art collectors Nancy Brown Negley-Wellin and Isabel Brown Wilson; Houston socialite Louisa Stude Sarofim.
3. The Moody Foundation
significant gifts: $10.8 million to Moody Gardens, a 142-acre complex that includes the Rainforest Pyramid and a 3-D IMAX theater.
HISTORY: Created in 1942 by William Lewis Moody, Jr., and his wife, Libbie Shearn Moody, whose holdings included banks, newspapers, cotton, ranches, hotels, and the American National Insurance Company.
NOTABLE TRUSTEES: Family members Frances Moody Newman, Robert