From the CEO

In 2004, I wrote a column about the work of psychology's philanthropy: the American Psychological Foundation (APF). Every few years, I think it is a good idea to remind you of this incredible asset we have. As I wrote, many of us entered psychology out of a motivation to do work that helps us better understand or that improves the human condition. As scientists, practitioners and educators, we are part of a "giving" profession-one that places a premium on advancing society. We endeavor to use our training, knowledge and expertise to make life better for others. Occasionally, however, members ask me how they can help make psychology better; that is, how they can give back to the discipline that has given them and others so much. One way is through giving to APF.

Advancing human potential

Long before coming to APA, I had known about some of APF's work. Since becoming CEO of APA in2003 and serving on the APF Board of Trustees, I have learned much more about its research funding efforts and its support of graduate students in psychology. What makes APF special, and why I am a contributor to it, is that it fills a niche occupied by no other philanthropy. It exists for the sole purpose of supporting all of psychology and what it can do to advance human potential.

APF was established in 1953 to provide a way for psychologists to express their dedication to the field and to help ensure its future. The founders believed there was an unmet desire among psychologists to share their resources to advance psychological research and provide scholarships. The foundation began with six founding psychologists and a budget of $580. Today, the foundation now boasts thousands of donors and has blossomed into a $15-million charity. The growth in the foundation's assets is a testament to the desire of many psychologists to give back to the field.

Building a foundation for the future

In 2000, under the leadership of APF President Dr. Dorothy Cantor and Executive Director Elisabeth Straus, the foundation began its first fund-raising campaign, the Campaign for a New Era, and raised $12 million by the end of 2004-$3.5 million over its original goal. Since that time, the foundation has focused on raising funds to focus on critical issues where psychology can make a difference:

  • Finding connections between mental and physical health to ensure well-being.

  • Understanding and preventing violence and prejudice to create a safer, more humane world.

  • Supporting the sustained rebuilding of communities in the aftermath of disaster.

In the last year alone, APF:

  • Collaborated with the American Diabetes Association to develop a course to train psychologists to treat patients who have diabetes.

  • Awarded a graduate scholarship to research underlying reasons for discrimination and stigma against people with mental illness.

  • Provided a grant to the 9/11 Project for Mothers and Children to ensure that both the mothers who were widowed and their children can receive counseling.

  • Supported the Population Media Center to produce a radio program in Niger that will increase awareness of the violence and abuse inherent in child trafficking (see "As the world turns").

In 2008, APF will award its first violence prevention grant with a focus on hate crimes. After the repugnant incidents at Jena, La.; Columbia University; and the University of Maryland, psychologists across the country continue to contribute to APF to make this grant possible.

APF clearly provides an opportunity to extend our giving and our influence on a national and international scale. As philanthropic psychologists, we can make an impact far beyond what each of us does individually day to day.

As the holidays approach, when you think about giving, I hope you will consider making a gift to APF. Most of us love psychology and the opportunities it has provided for us. We understand the force psychology can have to effect positive change in society. Giving to the foundation is one more way to demonstrate that we are grateful for the rewarding careers psychology offered to us, and to help ensure that the work of psychology will continue to serve the public good.

Further Reading

For more information on APF, contact Elisabeth Straus at e-mail, or visit APF's Web site at