Non-profit

John Templeton Foundation

Location:

CONSHOHOCKEN, PA

Tax ID:

62-1322826

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)-PF

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $227,340,774
Expenses: $152,520,592
Assets: $3,329,359,523

Formation:

1987

Type:

Private Foundation

President:

Heather Templeton Dill

Website:

https://www.templeton.org/

Affiliated Organizations:

Templeton World Charity Foundation

Templeton Religion Trust

The John Templeton Foundation was created by investor Sir John Templeton. Since his death in 2005, it has been led after the founder’s death by his late son, John Templeton Jr., and by his grandchildren, Heather Templeton Dill and Jennifer Templeton Simpson.  The foundation’s primary focus is exploring the scientific basis for religion and spirituality. The foundation is also a major donor to center-right advocacy organizations.

John Templeton

Business Career

John Templeton was born in Winchester, Tennessee in 1912.  After he graduated from Yale University and Oxford University (where he was a Rhodes Scholar), he began his career as an investor in 1939, where he invested $100 in each of 104 U.S. companies whose shares were selling for less than a dollar. Templeton told Money magazine in 1999 that “I had a profit on 100 out of 104 of them. I made roughly five times my money.” [1]

The Templeton Growth Fund, created in 1956, had an annual return of 15 percent a year until Templeton sold it in 1994, earning himself $440 million. Money called him “arguably one of the greatest global stock pickers of the 20th century” and “a towering figure, one of the few masters from whom every investor can learn.” [2]

Templeton became a British citizen in 1968 and spent the remainder of his life living in the Bahamas. In 1987 he was knighted for his services to philanthropy and is honored by a window in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey for his donations towards the abbey’s restoration. [3]

Philanthropy

Templeton told Money his goal as a philanthropist was “to help hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, to have spiritual wealth. It’s the most fundamental need humanity has ever had.” [4]

He told the Saturday Evening Post in 2003 the “main purpose” of his philanthropy was “persuading people that, with the proper scientific research, it’s possible to eventually make discoveries of spiritual realities so that, within a century, humans will know a hundred times more about divinity and spiritual principles as any human has known to date.” [5]

Templeton’s first philanthropic venture was the Templeton Prize, established in 1973, which is jointly administered by the Templeton Foundation, the Templeton World Charity Foundation, and the Templeton Religion Trust. Current Templeton Prize winners receive £1.1 million (approximately $1.5 million as of November 2021). The criteria for determining the recipients were changed in 2020 so that it goes to “research, discovery, public engagement, and religious leadership that advance our understanding of, and appreciation for, the insights that science brings to the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s purpose and place within it.” [6] As of 2021, the three most recent Templeton Prize winners were Dartmouth College physicist Marcelo Gleiser, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins, and zoologist Jane Goodall. [7]

Donor Intent

John Templeton was concerned that his intentions in establishing the Templeton Foundation would not be honored after his death. He told the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2003 that both the MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation were illustrative examples of how foundations drifted away from their founder’s intentions. [8] The MacArthur Foundation deed of trust, Templeton said, let trustees “spend the money however the trustees want to.” [9] Templeton criticized the Ford Foundation for sprinkling “money around to various causes. It’s not as cost-effective as concentrating in an area where people aren’t putting up any money.” [10] Templeton decided to endow the Templeton Foundation in perpetuity, because, as Michael Anft reported in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, he believed that “because spiritual knowledge is so limited” perpetuity was required “so that the field can make appreciable gains in the next century.”[11]

“Father’s hot-button issue is donor intent,” Templeton’s son, John Templeton Jr., told Christianity Today in 2005. “Foundations are taken too far in a radical direction.” [12]

Templeton Sr. left a detailed deed of trust describing his wishes, including that “the major intentions of the Founder are:  (i) to encourage new spiritual information and spiritual research to increase as rapidly as medical information did in the 20th Century; (ii) to encourage the world to spend at least as much resources on research for new spiritual information as the world spends on science research, and (iii) to encourage the idea that less than 1 percent of spiritual reality is known by humans … For progress in religion, the Foundation shall always encourage open-minded research and never advocate any particular religious theme or argument.” [13]

To ensure that his wishes were followed, Templeton set up a system whereby outside auditors would review foundation grants and, if they determined the grants were not in line with Templeton’s intentions, could tell the board to remedy the situation within one year. If that didn’t happen, the trustees could be fired and replaced by new ones. [14] If the independent auditors found that more than nine percent of Templeton Foundation grants violated donor intent, John Templeton Jr. and two other top officials could be fired. [15]

There is no evidence that anyone at the Templeton Foundation was fired for violating the founder’s donor intent.  John Templeton Jr. remained president of the foundation until his death in 2015. But in 2013 Jane Siebels, a Templeton Foundation trustee who had worked for Templeton for six years as a portfolio manager, told Bridgespan that the trustees were often frustrated by the restrictions in the Templeton Foundation deed of trust, including a clause that several of Templeton’s books be considered part of the deed, meaning “our charter is almost 700 pages long.” Her experiences with the Templeton Foundation, she said, led her to advise donors “to give it away while they’re still alive, because that’s the only way to ensure your wishes are met.” [16]

During John Templeton Jr.’s tenure as Templeton Foundation president, he instituted a requirement that every project the foundation funded included a statement on how the grant honored his father’s donor intent. [17]

In 2018 the Templeton Press published Sir John’s Vision, an anthology of articles about Templeton’s intentions as a donor. [18]

John Templeton Jr.

In 1995, John Templeton’s son, Dr. John Templeton Jr., became president of the Templeton Foundation. After obtaining his medical degree, the younger Templeton worked as a trauma surgeon at the naval hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, and at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia before assuming the Templeton Foundation presidency. [19] [20]

While funding on religion and science remained the primary concern of the Templeton foundation, the foundation also increased its donations to center-right advocacy groups pursuant to a clause in the foundation’s charter that calls for it to support “free competition, entrepreneurship, and the enhancement of individual freedom and free markets.” The charter recommends trustees read works by Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Edwin J. Feulner. John J. Miller, writing in National Review in 2007, said that “it would be wrong to call the Templeton Foundation conservative…yet many conservatives have benefited from its giving,” citing grants to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Mercatus Center. [21]

One legacy of this period is the Templeton Freedom Prize, awarded by the Atlas Network since 2004 and supported by the Templeton Foundation between 2004-2013, though it has since been sponsored by the Templeton Religion Trust. The $100,000 prize, awarded to a think tank that promotes free enterprise from outside the United States and Europe, has as of 2021 been most recently awarded to the Egyptian center for Public Policy Studies (2018), the Foundation for Economic Freedom in the Philippines (2019) and the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (2020). [22]

Heather Templeton Dill and Jennifer Templeton Simpson

After John Templeton Jr. died in 2015, control of the foundation passed two to of his daughters, with Heather Templeton Dill becoming president of the foundation and Jennifer Templeton Simpson chair of the board of trustees. Jennifer Templeton Simpson told Philanthropy in 2020 that “I’m very different from my grandfather in my own philanthropic interests and the way I live my life” but “the guardrails” John Templeton installed about donor intent “help us move a lot faster, because we don’t waste time going sideways.” [23]

“As an organization,” Heather Templeton Dill told Philadelphia Magazine in 2020, “the mission that we are asked to carry out is addressed to a specific set of needs. Some might call it a spiritual hunger, or a crisis of meaning and purpose. It’s an uncommon mission, and one we feel has a role to play in today’s world.  Our hope, our dream as an institution, is to help people flourish and find joy by bringing the tools of science to bear on profound questions that at one point or another touch all of us.” [24]

Grantmaking

In 2019, the Templeton Foundation was a major source of funding for ten right-leaning advocacy organizations and one left-leaning one. Center-right organizations receiving grants of over $100,000 from the Templeton Foundation in 2019 included the Acton Institute ($388,000), the Atlas Economic Research Foundation ($1,610,000), the Cato institute ($590,000), Foundation for Economic Education ($540,000), Foundation for Excellence in Higher Education ($211,000), Fraser Institute ($210,000), Heterodox Academy ($860,000), Liberty Fund ($1,380,000), Mercatus Center ($530,000), and Philanthropy Roundtable ($150,000). The foundation gave the left-leaning New Venture Fund $150,000 for general operating support in that year. [25]

In 2019, the Templeton Foundation gave a $1.1 million grant to the Pew Charitable Trusts for continuing support of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, a joint venture of the Pew Research Center and the Templeton Foundation.  The project combines a database of demographic data about world religions with a series of reports, including the ages of active members of various denominations and the rise of Muslims in Europe. [26]

The major concern of the Templeton Foundation continues to be answering what it calls the “Big Questions” about the meaning of life and the purpose of religion. In 2019, the foundation announced it would spend $325 million between 2019-23 on twelve “strategic priorities.” Including “Intellectual Humility,” “Religious Cognition,” and “Science-Engaged Theology.” [27]

References

  1. William Green, “The Secrets of Sir John Templeton,” Money, January 1999, https://www.williamgreenwrites.com/journalism/the-secrets-of-sir-john-templeton/ (accessed October 26, 2021) ^
  2. William Green, “The Secrets of Sir John Templeton,” Money, January 1999, https://www.williamgreenwrites.com/journalism/the-secrets-of-sir-john-templeton/ (accessed October 26, 2021) ^
  3. “Sir John Templeton,” Westminster Abbey website, https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/commemorations/sir-john-templeton (accessed October 26, 2021) ^
  4. William Green, “The secrets of Sir John Templeton,” Money, January 1999, https://www.williamgreenwrites.com/journalism/the-secrets-of-sir-john-templeton/ (accessed October 26, 2021). ^
  5. Patrick Perry, “Sir John:  The Eternal Optimist,” Saturday Evening Post, March/April 2003. ^
  6. “About the Templeton Prize.” Templeton Prize, October 6, 2021. https://www.templetonprize.org/templeton-prize-history/ (accessed October 26, 2021). ^
  7. “Templeton Prize Winners – Discover Laureates from 1973 to Today.” Templeton Prize, May 21, 2021. https://www.templetonprize.org/templeton-prize-winners-2/?gclid=Cj0KCQjww4OMBhCUARIsAILndv5f7sFVxK4NTllFKwjX1kACX25sC2dqGWPOnoXCB5-xqfYDidGcJL0aAmHCEALw_wcB. ^
  8. Cecelia Conrad, director of the MacArthur Fellows Program, is currently one of the nine judges awarding the Templeton Prize.  “Cecelia A. Conrad, Ph.D.,” https://www.templetonprize.org/templeton-prize-history/the-judges/ (accessed October 26, 2021) ^
  9. Michael Anft, “A Donor’s Divine Intervention,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 12, 2003. ^
  10. Michael Anft, “A Donor’s Divine Intervention,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 12, 2003. ^
  11. Michael Anft, “A Donor’s Divine Intervention,”’ Chronicle of. Philanthropy, June 12, 2003. ^
  12. Tony Carnes, “The $1 Billion Handoff,” Christianity Today, September 2005. ^
  13. Michael Anft, “A Donor’s Divine intervention,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 12, 2003. ^
  14. Michael Anft, “A Donor’s Divine Intervention,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, June 12, 2003 ^
  15. Tony Carnes, “The $1 Billion Handoff,” Christianity Today, September 2005. ^
  16. “Preserving Sir John Templeton’s Philanthropic Intent;  jane Siebels Admits It IIsn’t Easy, Bridgespan, November 27, 2013, https://www.bridgespan.org/insights/library/remarkable-givers/profiles/jane-siebels/preserving-sir-john-templeton%E2%80%99s-intent-jane-siebe  (accessed October 27. 2021) ^
  17. Heather Templeton Dill and Jennifer Templeton Simpson,” Philanthropy, Winter 2020, https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/philanthropy-magazine/article/interview-with-heather-templeton-dill-jennifer-templeton-simpson (accessed October 28, 2021) ^
  18. “Sir John’s Vision.” Templeton Press, July 19, 2021. https://templetonpress.org/books/sir-johns-vision/. ^
  19. Carnes, Tony. “CT Classic: The $1 Billion Handoff.” ChristianityToday.com. Christianity Today, August 19, 2005. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/september/7.88.html. ^
  20. Templeton, Jack. “Dr. Jack Templeton.” Interview by Philanthropy magazine. Philanthropy Roundtable. March/April 2006. https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/philanthropy-magazine/article/dr.-jack-templeton. ^
  21. John J. Miller, “Big Bucks, Big Minds, Big Hearts,” National Review, April 16, 2007. ^
  22. “Templeton Freedom Award,” https://www.atlasnetwork.org/awards/the-2021-templeton-freedom-award (accessed October 28, 2021) ^
  23. “Heather Templeton Dill and Jennifer Templeton Simpson,” Philanthropy, Winter 2020, https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/philanthropy-magazine/article/interview-with-heather-templeton-dill-jennifer-templeton-simpson (accessed October 28, 2021). ^
  24. Sandy Hingston, “Science and Religion Have Never Been More At Odds.  Can Conshohocken’s Templeton Foundation Bridge The Divide?” Philadelphia Magazine, November 2020, https://www.phillymag.com/news/2020/10/10/john-templeton-foundation-philadelphia/ (accessed October 28, 2021) ^
  25. John Templeton Foundation, Return of an Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2019 ^
  26. “Pew-Templeton Global Religious futures Project,” http://www.globalreligiousfutures.org/explorer/about (accessed October 28, 2021) ^
  27. “John Templeton Foundation To Invest $325 Million In Strategic Priorities,” press release from the Templeton Foundation, March 25, 2019, https://www.templeton.org/news/john-templeton-foundation-to-invest-325-million-in-strategic-priorities (accessed October 28, 2021) ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1988

  • 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
    2019 Dec Form PF $227,340,774 $152,520,592 $3,329,359,523 $2,498,250 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2015 Dec Form PF $113,262,042 $225,900,726 $2,909,267,085 $5,635,742 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $281,622,595 $206,388,915 $3,231,688,757 $15,560,421 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $704,549,618 $144,645,858 $3,359,677,247 $7,157,181 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $135,893,370 $135,931,727 $2,555,855,497 $11,534,141 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $721,954,481 $98,012,007 $2,290,498,854 $7,785,326 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    John Templeton Foundation

    300 CONSHOHOCKEN STATE RD STE 500
    CONSHOHOCKEN, PA 19428-3815