Diana Davis Spencer Foundation



Bethesda, MD

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $43,316,651
Expenses: $124,327,522
Assets: $1,476,466,713




Private Foundation


Diana Davis Spencer

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The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation is a right-of-center grantmaking foundation headed by Diana Davis Spencer, daughter of investment banker and former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Shelby Cullom Davis and author Kathryn Y. Davis. It is the successor organization to foundations created by her parents. The Foundation supports advocacy groups and philanthropic projects, including military history monuments and substance abuse treatment.

“Our Sacred Honor”

The mission of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation is based on a speech given by Shelby Cullom Davis, entitled “Our Sacred Honor,” in reference to text in the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Davis espoused conservative political and economic values, but particularly social values, including the preservation of Christian-based moral principles in private and public life. Davis asserted that the foundation of national governance is personal morality, and cited historian Edward Gibbon’s assessment of the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire, including the undermining of the “sanctitiy of the home,” “the mad craze for pleasure,” and the “decline of religion.”1

Davis warned:2

The average span of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years. It is a sobering fact that the United States is now more than 200 years old. This cycle of decline and decay is not inevitable. It depends on us! How much do we love our country?3

The Foundation’s website expresses opposition to “the growth of big government” arguing that “to guarantee their political, social, and economic freedoms, Americans must rediscover and apply their founding values.”4

Diana Davis Spencer

Diana Davis Spencer is the daughter of Shelby Cullom Davis, an investment banker who served as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland in the Nixon and Ford administrations and as chairman of the Heritage Foundation board from 1985 through 1992,5 and Kathryn Wasserman Davis, an author and philanthropist.6 In 2013, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation gave $26 million to the Heritage Foundation to support the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at Heritage.7

Diana Davis Spencer graduated from the Masters School and Wheaton College and is a former trustee of both schools.8910 In addition, she is a current or former member of the Wilson Center National Cabinet, a former board member of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship,11 a member of the board of visitors of the Federalist Society,12 and chairman of the U.S. Advisory Council of the American Swiss Foundation.1314 The Independent Women’s Forum announced that it would honor her with a lifetime achievement award in 2022.15

In 2019, Diana Davis Spencer announced that her foundation would only make grants to universities that supported free and open debate. “Colleges and universities must allow free speech on campuses and encourage students to inquire and question all sides of an issue,” she said.  “Otherwise, democracy is doomed.” 16

Abby Spencer Moffat

Abby Spencer Moffat is the CEO of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation and the daughter of Diana Davis Spencer. She is a trustee of the Heritage Foundation and a board member of the Media Research Center17.1819

In a 2022 interview with the Philanthropy Roundtable, Abby Spencer Moffat stated that “we bring an entrepreneurial mindset to everything we do…we recognize that entrepreneurship is key to developing the next generation of talent.” She added that “we lock arms with our grantees to help them grow and develop. The resources we provide include human resource support, development, marketing and communications and strategy. In that way we are not just investing in innovative ideas or dynamic leaders, we are serving as full-service consultants incubating successful models.”20

Two grantees Abby Spencer Moffat said exemplified that entrepreneurship were Code 3, which provides a way for police in low-income communities to help “officers and community members…to know one another not as enemies but as people,” and the Mysa School, which “uses technology to customize learning.”21

Support for Military History

The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation has been a donor to an effort by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to build a national memorial in Washington, D.C. to commemorate America’s efforts in that war. Other foundations contributing to this effort include the Lilly Endowment; the Starr, Marriott, and Richard Lounsbery Foundations; and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. 22

The foundation also gives grants to National History Day, in which teams of students and teachers from across America travel to the University of Maryland in a national contest to present papers about different aspects of American military history. In 2019, the topic was “Legacies of World War I,” honoring the centennial of the end of that war. 23 In 2020, students went to Hawaii to research the lives of soldiers buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. Other donors to National History Day include the Crown Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Southwest Airlines. 24


In 2023, the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation donated $10 million to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a nonprofit for substance abuse treatment, to build a National Center for Family and Children.25

In 2022, the Foundation donated $3 million and a $1 million challenge grant to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) to “address the free speech crisis” by supporting students and alumni at universities with a “stifling campus climate.” In 2015, ACTA had received a $5 million grant from the Foundation.26

In 2021, the Foundation donated $200,000 to the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.27

In 2019, the Foundation gave six grants of over $1 million to the Daniel Morgan Academy ($5.4 million), the Daniel Morgan School of National Security ($4.6 million), DonorsTrust ($2 million), the Mysa School ($1.4 million), the Center for Education Reform ($1.2 million), and the Foundation for Excellence in Higher Education ($1 million).28

External Advisors

Four of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation’s six “external advisors” are employees of Graystone Consulting, a financial consulting branch of Morgan Stanley.29



  1. “Our Sacred Honor.” Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  2. “Our Sacred Honor.” Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  3. “Our Sacred Honor.” Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  4. “Founding Values.” Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  5. For an obituary, see Wolfgang Saxon, “Shelby C. Davis, Envoy and Philanthropist, 85,” New York Times, June 1, 1994.  For an analysis of the controversy over a chair Dais endowed at Trinity College, see Martin Morse Wooster, “An Unusual Victory For Donor Intent At Trinity College,” Martin Center, March 11, 2015,  (accessed September 9, 2022)
  6. For an obituary, see, Daniel E. Slotnik, “Kathryn Davis, 106, Donor; Made the Hudson her Cause,” New York Times, April 27, 2013.
  7. “Heritage Foundation Receives Record-Breaking Gift,” press release from the Heritage Foundation, September `12, 2013.
  8. “Diana Davis Spencer.” Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  9. “Board of Trustees.” The Masters School. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  10. “Wheaton College Board of Trustees.” Wheaton College. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  11. “Board Leadership.” NFTE. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  12. “Board of Visitors.” Federalist Society. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  13. “Diana Davis Spencer,” (accessed September 9, 2022).
  14. “Governance.” American Swiss Foundation. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  15. “Independent Women’s Forum Announces Strassel, Spencer As 2022 Annual Awards Gala Honorees Oct. 12,” press release from Independent Women’s Forum, August 11, 2022
  16. John Alman and Michael Poliakoff, “Force Colleges to Commit To Free Speech,” Cincinnati Enquirer, June 21, 2019.
  17. “Media Research Center Inc.” ProPublica. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  18. ”Abby Spencer Moffat,” (accessed September 12, 2022).
  19. Media Research Center. “2022 Annual Report.” Media Research Center. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  20. Erica Haines, “How This Female Philanthropist Harnesses the Power of Entrepreneurship,” Philanthropy Roundtable, March 31, 2022, (accessed September 12, 2022)
  21. Erica Haines, “How This Female Philanthropist Harnesses the Power of Entrepreneurship,” Philanthropy Roundtable, March 31, 2022, (accessed September 12, 2022)
  22. “New National WWI Memorial Design Continues to Gain Ground,” press release from the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, February 15,2018.
  23. “RVHS Teacher Selected for WW I Program,” Gallipolis (Ohio) Daily Tribune, September 16, 2019.
  24.  “Minnesota Historical Society:  St. Paul Student-teacher Team Chosen to Study World War II in Hawaii,” press release from Minnesota Historical Society, January 15, 2020.
  25. “Hazelden Betty Ford Receives $10 Million Commitment from Diana Davis Spencer Foundation.” Hazelden Betty Ford. February 24, 2023. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  26. “ACTA Receives Major Gift from Diana Davis Spencer Foundation.” ACTA. February 1, 2022. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  27. “International Spy Museum Awarded $200,000 Grant from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation.” Spy Museum. Septemeber 15, 2021. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  28. 2019 Diana Davis Spencer Foundation Form 990.
  29. “External Advisors to the Foundation.” Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. Accessed May 3, 2023.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 2007

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Dec Form PF $43,316,651 $124,327,522 $1,476,466,713 $70,835,627 $0 $0 $0 $0
    2019 Dec Form PF $32,545,761 $43,273,195 $1,443,215,686 $38,352,484 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2015 Dec Form PF $100,073,347 $69,402,577 $1,443,668,688 $31,443,616 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $156,450,491 $25,851,883 $1,479,615,995 $19,666,540 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $1,303,423 $3,440,972 $1,130,964,532 $428,524 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $1,394,516 $2,396,437 $649,513,608 $295,500 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $1,667,389 $2,310,561 $568,185,598 $180,877 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Diana Davis Spencer Foundation

    3 Bethesda Metro Center #118
    Bethesda, MD 20814