History - Exponent Philanthropy


Two decades ago, a group of trustees and executives from foundations with few or no staff saw an opportunity to unite for the development of their craft. Gathering at a conference under a handwritten sign reading “Are you alone with millions?” they met, talked, listened, and took the bold step to form what became the Association of Small Foundations (ASF).

ASF quickly grew to be the nation’s largest philanthropy membership association and earned a strong reputation for quality programming, practical information, and a place where these unique funders could connect and share their knowledge and experiences.

In 2012, the association undertook an in-depth strategic planning process, which suggested a powerful way to define our members—not in quantitative terms – but by the qualitative traits that describe their philanthropy: lean, agile, responsive, passionate, and personal.

In March 2014, to welcome and celebrate all lean funders and the exponential and outsized impact they have in virtually all communities and on all issue areas, we changed our name to Exponent Philanthropy.

In 2016, we celebrated our 20th Anniversary. This celebration included special programming, a blog series that showcased the impact we have had on our members’ philanthropy, and three inaugural Outsized Impact Awards. View our 20th Anniversary commemoration booklet.

In 2019, we spent time listening to our community as part of our strategic planning process that affirmed the critical and unique role we play in the philanthropy sector and the value of our community and offerings. Our commitment to lean funders (those who practice philanthropy with few or no staff) has never been stronger. Our 2020 – 2025 Strategic Plan refines our mission and vision and outlines our focus and goals for the future of our community and the organization.