Philanthropy: Wellspring of the NAE’s Work and Impacts

Following is an excerpt from the President’s Perspective published in the Winter issue of The Bridge. The full version will be available online and in print upon publication end of December 2022.

The public phase of the Campaign for NAE Leadership in a World of Accelerating Change was launched at the 2022 NAE Annual Meeting in October, featuring a dynamic 90-second call-to-action video to build excitement for the campaign, the NAE, and engineering in general. This unprecedented $100 million multiyear campaign will firmly position the National Academy of Engineering to achieve its vision, mission, and strategic plan, while ensuring its capacity to continue as the trusted source of engineering advice for creating a healthier, more secure, more equitable, more sustainable, and joyful world.

Why Philanthropy?

There is no line item in the federal budget for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the academies do not receive any direct appropriations from the federal government. Contributions from foundations, the private sector, and individuals enable the NAE to address critical issues on behalf of the nation and the engineering community. Sixty percent of the NAE’s revenue derives from philanthropy.

Understanding NAE Funding

The NAE operating budget for calendar year 2022 is $13.5 million. This includes funds for programs, studies, and convening activities ($4.0 million), awards ($1.4 million), and anticipated contributions to the NAE independent fund ($1.7 million), more than half of which comes from NAE members and donors.

The overall NAE endowment is about $100M (as of end-July 2022), half of which is committed to ongoing programs and activities including the NAE’s awards, Frontiers of Engineering, EngineerGirl, the Office of Outreach and Communications, The Bridge, and Memorial Tributes, among others. 

Each year a draw is made from the NAE unrestricted endowment, which is capitalized at about $50 million as of June 30, 2022. This endowment is the product of 50-plus years of philanthropy from those who support the NAE’s vision and work. Unrestricted funds are essential to the NAE’s ability to take prompt action on emerging matters of import to the nation and the engineering community, like the COVID-19 Call to Action.

To grow the endowment and establish a larger base for the annual draw, in 2016 the NAE initiated the multiyear Campaign for NAE Leadership in a World of Accelerating Change, by then-Chair Gordon England, then-President Dan Mote, and the NAE Council. This campaign—the first of its kind in the NAE’s history—will ensure that the NAE endowment can continue to support both the academy’s core operations and the advisory and actionable outcomes of its programs.

Philanthropy’s Uses and Impacts at the NAE

To date we have secured more than $51 million of our $100 million goal. Recent successes in fundraising have enabled the NAE to undertake new initiatives related to our mission. These include creation of the President’s Business Advisory Committee (PBAC) and Racial Justice and Equity (RJ&E) Committee; inception of the annual Special Lecture on Engineering and Society [featured at the NAE Annual Meeting]; and establishment of the NAE’s Office of Outreach and Communications, which works with all NAE units and NASEM divisions to ensure that the voice of engineering is heard—loud, proud, and often.

Major gifts also supported an international series on pandemic-related engineering advances and best practices for the development, production, and dissemination of interventions. And the newly named Grainger Foundation Frontiers of Engineering symposia series reflects an exceptional $10 million endowment to support this noteworthy program.

I am profoundly grateful to the members, friends, and partners who have demonstrated their generous support and steadfast commitment to the NAE. But we have much more to do.

Funding is needed to sustain and build our mission-centric programs on Practices for Engineering Education and Research (PEER), Cultural, Ethical, Social, and Environmental Responsibility in Engineering (CESER), and the Forum on Complex Unifiable Systems (FOCUS). The funds will also support the NAE’s outreach program on Inclusive, Diverse, and Equitable Engineering for All (IDEEA), which includes EngineerGirl.

The success of this landmark campaign to ensure the strength and effectiveness of the NAE depends on our members, institutional donors, and friends. Together, we can increase engineering talent through a commitment to equity and inclusion, instill a culture of ethical and environmental responsibility in engineering, improve capabilities and competencies for complex systems, and foster a commitment for engineering to enhance quality of life for all.

Donate Now

If you would like to make a gift or multiyear pledge to the Campaign for NAE Leadership in a World of Accelerating Change, please contact me or Radka Nebesky, director of development ( or 202.334.3417), or Stephanie Halperin, associate director of development ( or 202.334.1842). With your help we will succeed!