Tow Foundation




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2015):

Revenue: $17,671,651
Expenses: $12,849,268
Assets: $212,347,980


Grantmaking Organization

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The Tow Foundation is a Connecticut-based private grantmaking foundation. The organization makes grants in the arts, medical research, higher education, and criminal justice.

The foundation makes grants with a strong focus on New York- and Connecticut-based organizations. The organization makes grants to numerous center-left and left-wing organizations through these programs.

Organization Priorities

A major priority of the Tow Foundation is funding programs related to criminal justice. The organization’s goal is to reduce incarceration. It funds programs in both the adult and juvenile criminal justice system that provide alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation programs in jails and prisons, and services to help former inmates transition back to society. It also advocates on behalf of broader criminal justice reform. 1

In addition to support criminal justice programs, the foundation funds medical research, higher education, and cultural institutions. It funds research into medical cures. It also funds scholarships, fellowships, and internships for college students. It also funds journalism and the arts with an emphasis on the theater. It also funds training and creating partnerships for journalists. 2


The Tow Foundation was founded in 1988 by Leonard and Claire Tow as the family’s private foundation. Initially, the program of the foundation was unstructured and was guided by the personal passions of the family members. 3

When Emily Tow was brought on board, the foundation began to shift its focus away from its initial focus on medical research, cultural institutions, and higher education. Instead, the focus began to shift towards inequality and social justice. Tow invited people to the boardroom who were advocating for children and families and as a result, it began to take an interest in criminal justice issues. 4


Emily Tow is the foundation president and executive director. She has been a member of the board of directors since the foundation was founded in 1988, and she has been leading the foundation since 1995.   She is a trustee of New York Public Radio. She was appointed to the New York State Juvenile Justice Advisory Group by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D). She is a member of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations and Exponent Philanthropy. She is a former chair of Philanthropy New York. 5

Nadia Alia is the director of operations. She has been working for the foundation since 2013. Previously, she was the manager of member services at Philanthropy New York. 6

Beeta Jahedi is the director of strategy and communications. She has been working for the foundation since 2017. Previously, she was the senior director of learning and programs at San Diego Grantmakers. 7

Diane Sierpina is the director of justice initiatives. She has been a part of the foundation since 1998. Before joining the foundation, she was a newspaper and magazine journalist. Sierpina holds leadership roles with the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, the New York Juvenile Justice Initiative, and the Youth Transition Funders Group. 8


As of its 2015 tax filing, the foundation had $17.6 million in revenue and $12.8 million in expenses. It had $212.6 million in assets.

Among the organizations that it donated to that year were the Campaign For Youth Justice, Center For Children’s Law And Policy, Children’s Defense Fund, Committee To Protect Journalists, Innocence Project, Justice Policy Institute, National Conference of State Legislatures, and Brennan Center for Justice. 9


  1. “Justice Initiatives”. 2019. Tow Foundation. Accessed August 26.
  2. “Strategic Initiatives”. 2019. Tow Foundation. Accessed August 26.
  3. “Tow Foundation”. 2016. Foundation Center.
  4. “Tow Foundation”. 2016. Foundation Center.
  5. “Staff”. 2019. Tow Foundation. Accessed August 26.
  6. “Staff”. 2019. Tow Foundation. Accessed August 26.
  7. “Staff”. 2019. Tow Foundation. Accessed August 26.
  8. “Staff”. 2019. Tow Foundation. Accessed August 26.
  9. Tow Foundation, Return of a Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2015, Part XV Line 3
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 2000

  • 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
    2015 Dec Form PF $17,671,651 $12,849,268 $212,347,980 $1 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $38,487,541 $14,874,368 $212,643,395 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $26,232,019 $14,945,896 $196,309,567 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $98,189,998 $19,080,532 $187,105,512 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $10,734,637 $11,944,286 $108,329,737 $0 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Tow Foundation

    NEW CANAAN, CT 06840-4737