A Tradition of Consequential Work
Our four founders—J. Howard Pew, Mary Ethel Pew, J.N. Pew Jr., and Mabel Pew Myrin—learned an important lesson from their father, Sun Oil Co. founder Joseph Newton Pew Sr., who said, “Take risks but only if they seem wise, and never do something simply because everyone else is doing it.”
That plainspoken advice has helped guide The Pew Charitable Trusts on its 70-year journey from a small private philanthropy to a global research and public policy organization—and fostered an enduring commitment to consequential work, serving the public, and telling the truth. Mindful of that responsibility we always strive to invest in projects where we can add unique value, balancing risk with a rigorous selection process and choosing strong partners. We adjust to the challenges of the times and follow the facts, never the crowd. And we use science and data to serve the public interest—maintaining our long tradition of wise stewardship and commitment to service and giving back.
Those aspirations began on Feb. 6, 1948 when the founders incorporated The Pew Memorial Foundation. Two months later, the foundation made its first grant to the American Red Cross. Support for medical, religious, and educational institutions soon followed. In 1957, The Pew Memorial Trust—the largest of the seven trusts that now constitute The Pew Charitable Trusts—was established. And within a decade, the Trusts had evolved into one of the largest grantmaking organizations in the United States.
In the 1970s, a realization of the importance of global conservation encouraged the Trusts to support ocean research, spurring a 50-year commitment to use science, data, and nonpartisan advocacy to protect the environment. A decade later, the Trusts moved in a new strategic direction, going beyond reviewing and funding grant applications to developing and initiating projects—many in the fields of health, education, and the economy. In the 1990s, the Trusts embarked upon a robust portfolio of state policy work, and provided its initial support for the Pew Center for the People and Press, which eventually became the Pew Research Center, respected for its surveys on topics ranging from politics, to the Internet, to global trends in religion.
In the first decade of the 21st century the Trusts became a public charity, increasing our philanthropic partnerships and implementing new efforts to address challenges as varied as the increased rate of incarceration, illegal fishing, antibiotic resistance, and the need for marine protected areas to protect our shared oceans.
You can read more about Pew’s first 70 years in this issue of Trust. But even as we celebrate seven decades of achievement, the mission of Pew—using the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems—continues to evolve and grow.
For example, we track fiscal, economic, and demographic trends in all fifty states, and work with state officials to help manage debt, reduce budget volatility, evaluate the effectiveness of tax incentives, build rainy day funds, and monitor the financial health of local communities. Trust takes a close look at our efforts in Virginia, a well-managed state where Republican and Democratic policymakers have worked together to match revenue with spending, avoid structural deficits, build reserves, and keep taxes low.
Pew also continues its decades-long efforts in our home city of Philadelphia. This issue of Trust includes a story on our Philadelphia research initiative’s recent report, “Philadelphia’s Historic Sacred Places: Their Past, Present, and Future.” The study lays out the challenges facing the city’s houses of worship, which are often important resources for the community, providing not just a home to congregational worship but needed services and gathering places. And for a look at religion with a much wider lens, Trust also reports on surveys by the Pew Research Center about the attitudes of Protestants and Catholics in the U.S. and Western Europe on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation—an event that led to centuries of conflict but, as the studies show, today leaves the two groups seeing their religions as more similar than different.
If you enjoyed our recent story about a champion from the Australian Outback, you can read a second installment in the series here. This time we’re profiling Luke Bayley who, along with his wife Fiona, helps manage the Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia. Luke works with Aboriginal partners, but also nearby mine operators—believing that if culturally and environmentally sensitive areas are wisely managed, mining can be good for the Outback because it brings people, infrastructure, money, and skills to the area. He says, “The Outback just needs to be reimagined.” And that’s exactly what he is doing.
It is what we’re doing too. For 70 years, Pew has reimagined how to best serve the public interest—attempting to stay ahead of the curve, maintaining our relevance as new eras bring new challenges, and partnering with many donors and organizations. But we’ve never reimagined the expectations and aspirations of our founders. Their goal to serve the public good has guided us for seven decades—and as the accomplishments and partnerships highlighted in this issue show, they continue to guide us, and will do so long into the future.