Studio Gang image of the new Arkansas Arts Center at completion. Studio Gang Architects

Each year, the Arkansas Times dives into the 990-PF tax filings by the state’s richest grant-making foundations. Though the grants revealed in those documents were made more than a year ago, they nevertheless give us a good idea of where philanthropic dollars are going in Arkansas. In 2018, Arkansas saw significant quality-of-life investments, with millions going to the arts, bike trails and health care. Universities and charter schools also topped the list of major gifts.

The hefty Walton Family Foundation provided around $100 million to Arkansas concerns. The foundation has transformed Northwest Arkansas; its giving to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art totaled more than $1 billion by the end of 2018. On a par in terms of giving was the Windgate Charitable Foundation, now headquartered in Little Rock and, like the Walton foundation, an angel to the arts in Arkansas. At some point, almost every arts center in Arkansas will bear the Windgate name. The University of Arkansas, UA Fort Smith, UA Little Rock, UA Pine Bluff, the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College, UA Pulaski Tech — all owe a debt to Windgate for its investment in their art school facilities. The Arkansas Arts Center won’t be renamed, but it announced this year that the Windgate Foundation will contribute $35 million to the capital campaign to rebuild the facility.


Here’s a snapshot of how some of Arkansas’s largest grant-making foundations contributed to nonprofits at home in 2018. (The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Heifer International Foundation hold assets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but their grants go outside the United States, to sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South America.) Figures have been rounded up to the nearest decimal.

Walton Family Foundation


Net assets: In 2017, the Walton Family Foundation reported $3.6 billion net assets. The Times has requested its 2018 form 990, but has not received it

UPDATE: The foundation’s 2018 990 tax form reports net assets of $3.9 billion.


Grants: $595.9 million, reported on the foundation’s website.

When the Arkansas Times first started reporting on philanthropy in Arkansas, in 1998, the Walton Family Foundation was in its infancy, with assets of a mere $151.6 million. The Times listed Walton family gifts as low as $100,000 in 1998, because that was a significant gift 22 years ago.

In 2018, it gave away nearly four times that amount: $595.9 million. Now, it takes so much time to plow through the list of $1 million-plus gifts that anything less gets a pass.

For 2018, the foundation reported grants of $57 million in what it calls the “home region” — mostly Northwest Arkansas. It also gave around $38 million to special projects in Arkansas that year.


The foundation reported making five grants totaling more than $12 million to the bike-trail building Northwest Arkansas Trailblazers, $7 million to Crystal Bridges Museum and $5 million to Fayetteville’s Theater Squared, along with numerous other $1 million-plus grants. Support of charter schools is one of the major goals of the foundation; in Arkansas, its contributions to that form of education included a $9.9 million grant to the eStem school system in Little Rock.

Walton Charitable Support Foundation

Net assets: $606.23 million
Grants: $13.6 million

The foundation provided major support to the Arkansas Community Foundation ($3 million) and universities, including the University of the Ozarks ($1.2 million), Harding University ($2.3 million), John Brown University ($2.6 million) and the University of Arkansas Foundation ($4.5 million).

Windgate Charitable Foundation

Net assets $581.4 million
Grants $64.8 million

Windgate’s largest grant recipient was the Arkansas Community Foundation, which received a total of $14.2 million, $12.1 million of which went into an endowment for the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum. It awarded $10.6 million to Hendrix College, including a challenge grant for the construction and endowment of the Windgate Museum of Art (to open this year) and for visiting artists and gallery exhibitions. Other giving to the arts included $10 million for the Windgate Art and Design District at the University of Arkansas, a portion of its $40 million pledge; $3 million to the Arkansas Arts Center for its new museum school and $1 million for new Arts Center construction and endowment; $2.2 million for the ARTSpace project of the Art & Science Center in Pine Bluff; $1 million to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre; $1 million to endow the Bradbury Art Museum at Arkansas State University; and grants for the Charles Peer studio arts barn at John Brown University, the John Miller Howard exhibition at UA Pine Bluff. It also made a grant of $7.9 million to the University of Arkansas College of Health Education in Fort Smith for its occupational and physical therapy buildings.

In 2019, the Arts Center announced that the Windgate Foundation would make a lead gift of $35 million to its capital campaign. The cover story for the March 2019 issue of the Arkansas Times (published before the Arts Center gift announcement) summarized Windgate’s largesse, including its $20 million grant in January 2019 to the University of Central Arkansas for the Windgate Center for Fine and Performing Arts, the university’s largest gift.

The Arkansas Community Foundation

Net assets: $322.5 million
Grants: $41.5 million

The ACF was created with a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in 1976. In the Times’ 1998 philanthropic issue, the ACF, which manages hundreds of philanthropic funds for donors, had assets of $16 million. At the end of 2018, its assets were 20 times that amount.

The Jesus Fund

Net assets: $303.3 million
Grant: $18 million

Created by Mountaire Farms owner Ron Cameron, The Jesus Fund in 2018 made one gift of $18 million to the ultra-right-wing National Christian Foundation. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NCF, the largest Christian charity in the U.S., has donated tens of millions of dollars to what the center defines as anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT “hate groups.” Among those groups: The Alliance Defending Freedom, which supports such things as criminalizing homosexuality and sterilizing transgender people.

Endeavor Foundation

Net assets: $126.2 million
Grants: $26.9 million

Endeavor, created with funds from the sale of two hospitals, made significant quality-of-life gifts in Springdale in 2018, including a grant of $12.5 million to the Jones Center for Families. It also made gifts to area schools, including $991,440 to the Springdale School District, and provided $11 million in funding to another charity, the Jones Trust.

Tyson Family Foundation

Net assets: $22.6 million
Grants: $8.37 million

Among the Tyson foundation’s largest single grants were $1.8 million to Crystal Bridges Museum, $1.5 million to Arkansas Children’s Hospital and $800,000 to the Randal Tyson Track renovation at the U of A.

Winthrop Rockefeller Trust

Net assets $129 million
Grants: $2.3 million

The Winthrop Rockefeller Trust’s 2018 filing with the IRS reflected the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018. In October 2018, the trust gave more than $100 million to endow the University of Arkansas’s Winthrop Rockefeller Institute and its board of directors confirmed the trust would spend down its assets to zero in the months to come. In 2019, the trust announced a $2.25 million grant to UA Little Rock’s Center for Arkansas History and Culture and the Arkansas Arts Center and announced a pledge of $5 million from the trust to its capital campaign. Before its gift to WRI, the trust had given a total of $246 million to charitable causes, including the separate Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

I could not find a more recent 990 from the Pat and Willard Walker Foundation than its 2017 filing, when its assets stood at $260 million. In 2019, the foundation made a $5 million grant to the Baseball Performance Center at Baum Stadium at the U of A.

The Arkansas Arts Center announced in May 2019 that in addition to the Windgate gift, it has received pledges of $1 million and more from Harriet and Warren Stephens, Chucki and Curt Bradbury, the Brown Foundation of Houston, Mandy and Bill Dillard, Anne and Merritt Dyke, Terri and Chuck Erwin, Dede and Scott Ford with Joe Ellen and Joe Ford, Robyn and John Horn, Ben and Walter Hussman and the Hussman Foundation, the Rev. Christoph Keller III and Julie Keller, Mary Olive Keller Stephens and John Calhoun Stephens, Lynn and George O’Connor, the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Barbara Tyson (and two anonymous donors).

Other gifts of $1 million announced in 2019 included $3 million to the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design for a forest education center at Garvan Woodland Gardens by Ross and Mary Whipple, Peggy Clark and the Ross Foundation; $1.25 million to Arkansas Children’s Hospital by FaEllen and the Yates Foundation; $1 million to Lyon College scholarships by the John W. Edwards Trust; a $1 million pledge from Joel and Lynn Carver to Theater Squared; $1 million to the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society in the Fulbright College of the U of A from Brian Wolff. Margaret Clark made a gift of $500,000 to CHI St. Vincent Neuroscience Institute and Belinda Shults made a $500,000 gift to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation.