Carnegie Corporation

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Carnegie Corporation was created to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. Founded by Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), the corporation provides funding in areas of education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy.


Carnegie Corporation was created to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." The Corporation works to carry on the vision of philanthropy as explained by Andrew Carnegie, which aims “to do real and permanent good in this world” (Carnegie Corporation).

Grants funded by the Carnegie Corporation must benefit the people of the United States.  However, up to 7.4% of the funds may be used for the same purposes in countries that are or were members of the British Commonwealth.  Currently, the Corporation oversees four main areas that have evolved over time: education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy (ibid.).

Education:  The education programs funded by the Corporation include Advancing Literacy: Reading to Learn, a program that works to advance opportunities involving the improvement of reading and language skills in students and adults after the third grade.  This program incorporates Urban School Reform in the New York City area and Teacher Education Reform, and works with institutions of higher learning to teach new instructional methods and classroom management.  There are approximately 15 ongoing programs in the education area with an overall grant budget for 2004-2005 of $25,500,000 (ibid.).

International Peace and Security (IPS):  The IPS program funds projects in five areas: Nuclear and Biological Weapons, Technological and scientific advances, Global Engagement, U.S.-Russian cooperation and Higher education in the former Soviet Union.  The Carnegie Corporation developed this program in the 1980’s in an effort to identify issues in global peace and security and bring the subject to the forefront of organizations that are responsible for policy making (ibid.).

International Development Program (IDP):  The charter of the Carnegie Corporation was amended shortly after its formation to allow the organization to aid in the development of countries outside the United States.  The former British Commonwealth of Africa has been a major focus of the Corporation since 1925.  It is seen as a country with considerable local and natural resources that can benefit from the experiences and resources of developed countries.  It is hoped that this involvement will assist Africa in better identifying and solving its problems independently. The IDP program was formulated in 1999 to work on strengthening Africa through improvements in African universities, to promote women’s higher education, and to bring selected African public libraries into the information age (ibid).

Strengthening U.S. Democracy:  The democracy program was developed to increase citizen participation in the United States.  Major areas of emphasis include removing structural barriers to political and electoral participation, addressing attitude issues affecting the young and immigrants, and strengthening the nonprofit and civil sector to sustain and encourage engagement in civil society.  The program seeks out efforts that work to remove barriers in civic and electoral participation, and also to promote civic education in schools (ibid). 

Historic Roots

The Carnegie Corporation was founded in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie.  As founder of the Carnegie Steel Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he launched the steel industry.  At age 65, Carnegie sold his company to J.P. Morgan for $480 million and spent the rest of his life advancing philanthropic activities (ibid).

The Carnegie Corporation is one of seven philanthropic and educational organizations founded by Carnegie in the United States.  The Corporation’s capital fund, originally valued at approximately $135 million, had a market value of $1.8 billion as of September 30, 2003 (ibid).  The Corporation’s annual grantmaking currently exceeds $80 million per year.

Andrew Carnegie is best known for his philanthropic endeavors pertaining to public libraries.  Other early programs for the Corporation include adult education, fine arts education, and the improvement of library services.


In 1889, Carnegie wrote The Gospel of Wealth where he espoused the need for the wealthy to give away their riches during their lifetime.  “The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship” (Carnegie 1898, 653).

Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation spent over $56 million building libraries in the English-speaking world before terminating the libraries program in 1917.  Over 1600 communities benefited from Carnegie and the Corporation with funds for libraries.  As of 1967, 1,348 of the original buildings were still in use as public libraries (Bobinski 1969).

The Carnegie Corporation is considered one of the largest charitable foundations in America today and is seen as a champion of expanded government (Wooster 1998).

The Corporation continues to fund projects and programs that influence public policy in the United States.  Current issues being funded by the Carnegie Corporation include Campaign Finance Reform, Nuclear Nonproliferation, and 20 years of Education Reform (Carnegie Corporation).

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

The importance of nonprofit corporations in the philanthropic sector should not be underestimated.  The Carnegie Corporation continues to provide funding to support and research ideas that promote education and its reform in the United States and around the world.  Examples of recent grants provided by the Carnegie Corporation are:

  • Education grants include the University of Tennessee Teacher Education Accountability project; and the National Coalition of Community Foundations for Youth support of systemic strategies (caring neighbors and self-help groups) for struggling students (ibid).
  • International Development Program grants have provided $2.1 million to the University of Dar Es Salaam for scholarships for women, and a project to plan for gender equity at the University of Education at Winneba, Ghana as part of its efforts to enhance women’s opportunities in higher education (ibid).
  • International Peace and Security grants include the funding of a Harvard University study on the exploitation of biotechnology, and the National Academy of Sciences study on biosecurity challenges in response to the Anthrax attacks in the United States (ibid).
  • Strengthening U.S Democracy grants have provided funding for research and education on the reauthorization of the Federal Voting Rights Act; and membership support for the Foundation Center and the Independent Sector with nearly $60,000 in support (ibid).

Key Related Ideas

Democracy is a political system that gives power to a body of citizens who can elect people to represent their interests

A Public Library is a noncommercial library for the use by the general public, often supported by public funds. There may be only one public library in a community or there may be a public library system. Just as a school system has elementary and secondary schools, a public library that administers a branch, a bookmobile, a central library, and/ or a books-by-mail service is called a public library system.

Urban School Reform programs aim at improving the educational outputs of inner-city schools.  These programs work to decrease student dropout rates, improve testing scores, and provide solutions to overcrowding and inadequate fiscal resources.

Important People Related to the Topic

  • Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919): Carnegie was a philanthropist and the founder of the Carnegie Corporation. Many persons of wealth have contributed to charity, but Carnegie was one of the first state publicly that the rich have a moral obligation to give away their fortunes. Throughout much of his life, Carnegie set about disposing of his fortune through innumerable personal gifts and through the establishment of various trusts.
  • Vartan Gregorian (1934- ):  Gregorian is the current president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Prior to taking the helm of at Carnegie, he was the president of both the New York Public Library and of Brown University.
  • J.P. Morgan (1837-1913):  Morgan was an American capitalist that purchased Carnegie Steel.  He was most notably known for his railroad empire as well as arranging the mergers that formed General Electric and U.S. Steel.

Related Organizations

  • Americans for Libraries Council (ALC) is a national nonprofit that advocates for libraries at the national level and develops and promotes programs aimed at realizing the potential of libraries in the 21st century (
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was created through the merger of two previous Gates Foundations to help public libraries expand access to technology (
  • Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, formed originally to provide pensions for retired college professors, now engages primarily in education policy studies including the how and where that learning takes place (


Bibliography and Internet Sources

  • Bobinski, George S. Carnegie Libraries, Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development. Chicago: American Library Association, 1969. ISBN: 8389-0022-4.
  • Carnegie, Andrew. The Gospel of Wealth North American Review.  1898.  ISBN: 1557094713.
  • Carnegie Corporation.  Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Accessed on 22 September 2004.
  • Wooster, Martin Morse.  The Great Philanthropists & the Problem of “Donor Intent” Capital Research Center 1998. ISBN: 1-892934-01-9.

This paper was developed by a student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at Grand Valley State University. It is offered by Learning To Give and Grand Valley State University.