The Pew Charitable Trusts

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Pew Charitable Trusts
Established1948;73 years ago (1948)
ChairmanRobert H. Campbell
PresidentSusan K. Urahn
Faculty 10 (board)
Budget$374 million
Endowment $6.7 billion
Address2005 Market Street
Suite 1700
Philadelphia, PA 19103-7077
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

The Pew Charitable Trusts is an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), founded in 1948.


With over US$6 billion in assets, its stated mission is to serve the public interest by "improving public policy, informing the public, and invigorating civic life". [1]


The Trusts was established by the merging of several charitable funds that had been established between 1948 and 1979. The original funds were created by J. Howard Pew, Mary Ethel Pew, Joseph N. Pew Jr., and Mabel Pew Myrin—the adult sons and daughters of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew and his wife, Mary Anderson Pew. Honoring their parents' religious conviction that good works should be done quietly, the original Pew Memorial Foundation [2] was a grantmaking organization that made donations anonymously. The foundation became the Pew Memorial Trust in 1956, based in Philadelphia, the donors' hometown. Between 1957 and 1979, six other trusts were created, representing the personal and complementary philanthropic interests of the four siblings. [3] [4] The Trusts continues to be based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with offices in Washington, D.C., London, and Brussels.

Although today The Pew Charitable Trusts is non-partisan and non-ideological, Joseph Pew and his sons were politically conservative. The modern day organization works to encourage responsive government and support scientific research on a wide range of issues, including global ocean governance, correction reform, and antibiotic resistance.

Early priorities of the Pew Memorial Trust included cancer research, the American Red Cross, and a pioneering project to assist historically black colleges. Later beneficiaries included conservative organizations such as the John Birch Society, the American Liberty League, and the American Enterprise Institute, as well as environmental organizations such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Oceana, and mainstream think tanks like the center-left Brookings Institution. [5] [6] The Trusts continues to fund charities and the arts in Philadelphia.

In 2004, the Pew Trusts applied to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to change its status from private foundation to nonprofit organization. Since that change it can now raise funds freely and devote up to 5% of its budget to lobbying the public sector.

According to the Pew Trusts' website, five of the ten Directors serving on the Board are named Pew. [7]

Current concerns

Part of the Pew's mission includes a number of public policy projects. These projects focus on specific public policy issues: modernization of the civil legal system, Philadelphia local public policies; justice and public safety; student loans; ocean and fisheries protection; conservation of public lands and rivers; consumer finance and the greater economy; government reform; and public health issues. [8]

Maritime protection

The Trusts, with other groups, backed an effort to create marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean, near the Mariana Islands. [9] The protected area was officially designated in January 2009, and includes the Mariana Trench, the deepest ocean canyon in the world. Another marine protected area that the Trusts and other groups sought to protect is Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument which was protected by President Bush in 2006 [10] and expanded by President Obama in 2016. [11]

Pew Research Center

The Trusts also funds the Pew Research Center, the third-largest think tank in Washington, D.C., after the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress.

Justice and corrections reform

The Trusts have worked closely with the Vera Institute of Justice on issues related to state correction policies in the Public Safety Performance Project. [12] In 2008, Pew reported that more than one in 100 adults in the United States is in jail or prison, an all-time high. The cost to state governments is nearly $50 billion a year and the federal government $5 billion more. The report compiled and analyzed data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics and Federal Bureau of Prisons and each state's department of corrections. [13] [14]

Pew reported in 2009 that "explosive growth in the number of people on probation or parole has propelled the population of the American corrections system to more than 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 U.S. adults." "One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections" [15] examined the scale and cost of prison, jail, probation and parole in each of the 50 states, and provides a blueprint for states to cut both crime and spending by reallocating prison expenses to fund stronger supervision of the large number of offenders in the community.

Pew supported police reforms enacted by the state of Washington in 2021. Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) signed 12 separate police reform bills that would, among other things, require officers to intervene when they see another officer using excessive force, which happened during the brutal police murder of George Floyd in Minnesota 2020. [16]


"Based on data, science, and non-partisan research, Pew works to reduce hidden risks to the health, safety, and well-being of American consumers." [17] One program, the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, is intended to support promising early and mid-career scientists investigating human health, both basic and clinical. [18] The awards provide flexible support ($240,000 over a four-year period). Grantees are encouraged to be entrepreneurial and innovative in their research. [19]

In October 2020, the Trusts unveiled research on naloxone, the lifesaving overdose reversal drug. Pew researchers concluded that expanded access to naloxone saves lives and put forth several recommendations on how to do so, including options such as co-prescribing naloxone with opioids. [20]

During the rollout of vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic, Pew supported the CDC's determination that potentially "wasting vaccines" in order to quickly vaccinate teenagers, which was considered a major policy shift by the CDC. [21]


According to the 2019 Consolidated Financial Statements, as of 30 June 2019, the Trusts owned over US$6.7 billion in assets. For the 12 months ending on that date, total revenues were about US$374 million and total expenses were about $341 million, of which about $6.6 million were for fundraising expenses. [22]


Barnes Art Collection

The Trusts have supported the relocation of the famed Barnes Art Collection from its longtime home in Lower Merion, PA, to Center City. This has been controversial in the art world. The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to "promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture." [23]

According to the Barnes Foundation: [24]

"The Barnes is home to one of the world's largest collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with especially deep holdings by Renoir, Matisse, and Picasso", as well as important examples of African art, Native American pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde painting, and wrought-iron metalwork."

Opponents of relocating the collection to a new museum along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway said that move violates Barnes' will that the collection stay intact at its original location and not be loaned, transferred or sold. Columnist Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote in 2010, "It is perfectly clear exactly what Barnes specified in his will. It was drawn up by the best legal minds. It is clear that what happened to his collection was against his wishes." [25] Yet the Barnes Foundation prevailed in a series of legal actions and the new museum opened on May 16, 2012. At the opening Barnes trustee and treasurer Stephen Harmelin noted, "There were financial challenges to be faced...questions about how the foundation as it existed could go on with its mission, worries about the safety and integrity of the collection in the long run," he said. "We were convinced that the only change that could save the Barnes was to redouble our commitment to its mission, to reach out more widely than ever before, to build, to expand and to move the collection to a more accessible location." [26]

The Trusts became involved with the Barnes Collection when the foundation overseeing the art collection had serious financial trouble, ultimately contributing more than $20 million for a new museum. Reporter Roberta Smith of the New York Times said of the new building, "Against all odds, the museum that opens to the public on Saturday is still very much the old Barnes, only better." [27]

The controversy involving Pew, other donors, the Barnes trustees and the collection was the subject of a documentary film The Art of the Steal . The Trusts did not participate in the film. Rebecca Rimel, then head of The Pew Charitable Trusts, said they believed the film would not be fair. [28]

Texas Public Policy Foundation

Between 2011 and 2015, The Pew Charitable Trusts gave $4.7 million to the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), earmarked specifically for the foundation's criminal justice reform project. [29] [30]

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  2. "History of The Pew Charitable Trusts". Retrieved 2014-04-24.
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  18. "Pew Scholars Directory - Home". Retrieved 2013-08-27.
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  20. Carey, Liz (2020-10-22). "PEW researchers: expanded naloxone access can curb opioid deaths". Homeland Preparedness News. Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  21. "CDC Urges Docs to Puncture Vaccine Vial—Even for Just One Person". Retrieved 2021-05-23.
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  23. "About". Barnes Foundation. 15 August 2017 [5 July 2017]. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  24. "About the Collection". Barnes Foundation. 14 January 2020 [31 July 2017]. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  25. "FAQ on The Pew Charitable Trusts' Role in the Barnes Foundation Move". The Pew Charitable Trusts. 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2013-08-27.
  26. "Contested Barnes Foundation artworks open in new Philly location". CBC News. 2012-05-17.
  27. Smith, Roberta (2012-05-17). "A Museum, Reborn, Remains True to Its Old Self, Only Better". The New York Times.
  28. Kennicott, Philip (2010-03-07). "'The Art of the Steal' highlights one-sided nature of some documentaries". The Washington Post.
  29. Readfearn, Graham (2017-12-14). "Why Has One of the World's Biggest Funders of Environmental Conservation Also Given $4 Million to a Climate Denial Group?". DeSmogBlog . Retrieved 2017-12-15.
  30. Wilder, Forrest (2012-08-24). "Revealed: The Corporations and Billionaires that Fund the Texas Public Policy Foundation". The Texas Observer. Retrieved 2017-12-15.