Chairman’s Letter

Dear Friends,

In this time like no other, The J.M. Kaplan Fund remains committed to the ideals set forth by our founder—my grandfather, Jack Kaplan—in his quest for a more just and perfect society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the world around us. So too have extraordinary social challenges that have shaken the very roots of our democracy. As we make every effort to confront these compounding events, Jack’s vision remains our guiding light, as it has for more than 70 years of pioneering philanthropy.

Our family foundation was born in a pursuit for justice and equity that drives our work to this day. Jack established the Fund when he sold his business, the Welch’s Grape Juice Company, to its growers, creating one of America’s first and largest agricultural co-ops. Jack’s goal was to create a more just world, and, with the money generated by that transaction, he—and the Fund—were able to support the growth of the labor movement, free education for immigrants, and access to nature for all through public parks.

My mother, Joan Davidson, took this even further. During her seventeen years as the Fund’s president—1977 to 1993—her work made the Fund a powerhouse in historic preservation and nature conservation. During her tenure, the staff and trustees of the Fund led countless hard-fought preservation efforts and became the largest funder of parks in New York City.

As the challenges we face change, so we adapt. Today, under a third generation of leadership—with the names of Davidson, Fonseca, Pickering, and Amis joining the founding Kaplan—we honor our past, while reimagining the way we work as grantmakers facing some of the most daunting trials of our time.

To meet the challenges COVID-19 represents—which are all the more critical in a year that features both the decennial census and a highly fraught national election—the Fund has increased its payout to 7.2%, deploying new resources to bring change where it is needed most. This year, we have also tackled the Fund’s structure and governance to make our impact even greater:

• we initiated a fourth-generation pilot, a multi-year program to engage the next generation of Kaplans in the rapidly evolving field of family philanthropy;
• we streamlined our operating structure to be even more nimble and responsive; and
• we redoubled our commitment to environmental, social, and governance-aligned investing, recognizing the opportunity to deploy all our resources for good.

All this while we are ever more aware of the fragility of human life, of our planet, and of our democracy. As we take heart in Jack’s vision to achieve a more perfect society, we are fortunate to rely on an extremely talented staff who mobilize our response to this ever-changing nation and planet. Through their efforts, and the visionary work of our partners and grantees, we are dedicated more than ever to a just world for all.


Thank you for visiting us, and welcome to the Fund.


Peter Davidson