Fulfilling a Legacy
Since 1924, The Duke Endowment has worked to help people and strengthen communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits.
Located in Charlotte, N.C., the Endowment seeks to fulfill the visionary genius and innovative legacy of James Buchanan Duke, one of the great industrialists and philanthropists of the 20th century. Mr. Duke established the Endowment in 1924 with $40 million. In 1925, it was expanded with an additional $67 million from his estate. Adjusted for present value, Mr. Duke's total gifts would amount to almost $1.4 billion today. It was by the stroke of his pen that James B. Duke created The Duke Endowment, and the integration of his signature as a graphic element underscores the legacy that is the foundation and guiding force of The Duke Endowment. The logo reflects the singular achievements of James B. Duke, and the accomplishments of the Endowment he established.
Governed by a board of trustees, Endowment staff conduct grantmaking according to guidelines in Mr. Duke's original Indenture of Trust (pdf), a legal document that remains relevant and timely after more than 80 years. In November 2011, Trustees approved six Guiding Principles for our work.
The Endowment has awarded more than $4 billion in grants since its inception, including over $1.5 billion to Duke University. With assets of $3.8 billion in 2019, the Endowment is one of the nation's largest 501(c)(3) private foundations. Today, more than 80 percent of our total spending goes to grantmaking.
In addition to grantmaking work in four program areas, the Endowment shares its knowledge by publishing resources for grantees and other service organizations, including information about what we're learning from our work in various publications, reports and evaluations. We also operate a fellowship program to cultivate emerging leaders in philanthropy.
The Duke Endowment Supports
The Duke Name
James B. Duke and his family were innovative business leaders and visionary philanthropists. While distinct and independent, many organizations bear the Duke name.
The Duke Endowment
A private foundation created in 1924 by James B. Duke as his philanthropic legacy.
Named after the same family, with its own endowment. Duke University has received nearly $1.5 billion in grants from The Duke Endowment.
Also founded by James B. Duke, now a widely-held public company.
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Founded by the daughter of James B. Duke as a separate private foundation supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child maltreatment.
The 2,700-acre estate in Hillsborough, N.J., developed by James B. Duke, bequeathed to his daughter Doris and now owned and supported by the Duke Farms Foundation, an operating foundation of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Built in 1915, this Charlotte, N.C., mansion was tripled in size by its most famous owner, James B. Duke. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is now operated as a nonprofit with all proceeds being used to preserve and protect this community treasure.
A restored historic site, this living museum features the home, factories and farm where Washington Duke first grew and processed tobacco. The site offers special programs and activities that demonstrate early tobacco farming and processing techniques. The homestead is operated by North Carolina Historic Sites, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Office of Archives and History.
At The Duke Endowment, we work toward one over-arching goal: To improve life for the people of North Carolina and South Carolina.
To meet that ambitious standard, our work must reach those of all races, ages and backgrounds. As we strive to improve health care, child and family well-being, higher education and rural churches and communities, deep-rooted racial disparities impede the positive outcomes we seek. People of color contribute every day to the prosperity and vibrancy of our communities, but far too many fall short of their dreams of successful, happy lives. Compared to whites, African Americans, Latinos and Indigenous people in our states are more likely to live in poverty, struggle to graduate from high school and lack access to doctors.
We can’t truly advance when large swaths of the population get left behind. With that in mind, the Endowment strives to be intentional about the role it can play to address and mitigate racial and economic disparities. We apply a racial equity lens to both our grantmaking and our internal operations. Recent examples of our efforts to center racial equity include our response to COVID-19, in which we directed funding to organizations serving communities of color. We also disaggregate data on our giving, seeking to ensure that our work reaches across racial and socioeconomic lines. Additionally, we are investing in nonprofit leaders of color across the Carolinas.
We are committed to maintaining momentum with our efforts, but it is important to realize that this a long-term process. We will not achieve our goals in a year or two, and the quest to refine our approach and our initiatives must advance in a spirit of transparency, humility and continuous learning. To ensure that the goal of racial equity, diversity and inclusion remains in sight in the years ahead, we have threaded an equity focus through the learning and evaluation plans our program areas use to gauge the effectiveness of their work.
We take these steps not out of an ideological impulse, but in simple pursuit of achieving maximum impact with the dollars James B. Duke entrusted to our care nearly a century ago. Our guiding principles require us to follow Mr. Duke’s intent to address current and emerging needs, provide ethical leadership by seeking diverse opinions, direct resources where they will produce the best results, and build effective relationships with grantees by listening to them, learning about their communities and challenges, and working together toward solutions.
Our initiatives in racial equity, diversity, and inclusion fall squarely within that mandate.
We look toward the day when such targeted efforts are rendered unnecessary.
Until then, we join with others across the Carolinas in working to bring that goal within reach.
The Duke Endowment’s investment portfolio is managed by DUMAC Inc., a professionally-staffed investment organization in Durham, N.C., governed by Duke University. Please see the DUMAC website for additional information, including its approach to diversity and responsible investing.
During 2020, the investment return on the Endowment’s portfolio was 13.8 percent. Investment performance benefited from increases in global equity and private capital. The table below shows the annual returns for the Endowment’s portfolio for the past 10 years.
The Endowment’s portfolio increased in value from $3.8 billion to $4.7 billion from December 31, 2019, to December 31, 2020, impacted by investment returns, grants and expenses. The Endowment’s total assets were $4.7 billion at year end. The table below shows the year-end total assets of the Endowment for the past 10 years.
For the 10-year period ending December 31, 2020, the Endowment’s investment portfolio, net of fees, returned 9.6 percent annualized, outperforming its policy benchmark, which returned 6.3 percent annualized, and a 70 percent MSCI All Country World Index/30 percent Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index benchmark, which was up 7.8 percent annualized over the same period.
Grants and Expenses
Since James B. Duke’s death in 1925, the assets of The Duke Endowment have achieved significant growth, from $107 million to $4.7 billion. During the same time, over $4 billion has been distributed in grants.
Over 80 percent of the Endowment’s total spending goes directly to grantmaking. This compares favorably to foundations of similar size. The chart below shows our grantmaking in the context of other spending. This grantmaking volume depends on our ability to invest assets wisely. View additional information in the 2020 Annual Report Financials Statement (pdf) or contact us to request further details.