Top grantmaker shares his wisdom

By Craig A. Ruark

Special to the Las Vegas Business Press

Edmund J Cain 2016 small

Edmond J. Cain, vice president of grant programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation speaks to members of the Nevada Corporate Giving Council about meeting philanthropic goals (Craig A. Ruark/special to the Las Vegas Business Press

“Love one another, for that, is the whole law; so our fellow men deserve to be loved and encouraged—never to be abandoned to wander alone in poverty and darkness.” Conrad N. Hilton (1887-1979)

During the June 10th lunch meeting of the Nevada Corporate Giving Council, some of the Las Vegas Valley’s most notable philanthropists and administrators of corporate philanthropic organizations were treated to a rare opportunity to listen to and ask questions of Edmund J. Cain, vice president of grant programs for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and one of the leading authorities on corporate giving.

During his talk, Cain, who is also the vice chair of the Southern California Grantmakers’ Board of Directors, pointed out that philanthropic donations amounted to $258 billion in America last year. But despite the fact that there are over 100,000 recognized foundations in the U.S., 72 percent of that money came from individuals.

“That money, if used smartly, can make a real difference in what we are trying to achieve,” said Cain.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was established in 1944 and since its inception has awarded more than $1 billion in grants. Today, the foundation assets are approximately $2.5 billion mostly due to the fact that Conrad Hilton he donated all of his wealth to the foundation in his final will.

While Conrad Hilton had made a lot of money, it was Barron Hilton that significantly increased the corporate wealth when, in 1971, he bought the famous International and Flamingo Hotels from Kirk Kerkorian, bringing gaming into the company holdings. For the next two decades, those two properties alone generated half of the revenue for the Hilton Corporation.

Like his father before him, Barron Hilton has pledged to the Foundation, upon his death, virtually all of the proceeds in excess of $4 billion that he received in 2008 from the sale of Hilton Hotels Corporation and Harrah’s Entertainment.

Currently, the Foundation ranks as number 30 among the largest charity organizations. With the addition of Barron Hilton’s financial pledge, the Foundation is likely to move into a position somewhere around 15.

The Hilton Foundation has gone through three eras’ which have evolved to define how corporate philanthropic decisions are made. The first was the “Conrad Era” where he would write a check to charities that stuck a cord in his heart. There was not any process for qualifying needs or abilities of those organizations to spend the money wisely.

The second era, headed by Don Hubbs, brought the organization into the era of major granting. Holmes established a process for identifying a few first class organizations and contributing to their cause.

The current “Strategic Era” is the third phase where the organization moved away from being reactive and simply identifying organizations, to hiring a professional staff and identifying issues that are aligned with the corporate values. These values are rooted in the life interests and vision of Conrad N. Hilton, “Assuring that the foundation pursues approaches that touch a diversity of people, places and needs by developing long-term projects and partnerships.”

“We invest in six strategic initiatives that involve funding multiple partners, generating new knowledge, and collaborating with other funders,” said Cain

In 2015, the Foundation gave out $107.8 million in grants to Catholic Sisters, children affected by HIV and Aids, foster youth, homelessness, substance use prevention, safe water, avoidable blindness, Multiple Sclerosis, disaster relief and recovery, Catholic education, and hospitality

In the first quarter of 2016, the Foundation has already given $18.5 million.

Prior to entering the world or philanthropic giving, Cain had a long career with the United Nations serving in Malaysia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Egypt. He was also the first director of the U.N. Emergency Response Division. Cain also served as a senior member of The Carter Center’s Peace Program team, advising President Carter on global development issues.

The mission of the Nevada Corporate Giving Council is to connect philanthropy leaders from across industries to share news and best practices, discuss trends, and gain a deeper understanding of the community’s needs. The organization meets quarterly and information about participation can be found at


About craigruark

Craig A. Ruark is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing and PR professional. In 2008, Craig became one of the first non-technical persons to become an Accredited Professional by the U.S. Green Building Council for ‘Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design” (LEED AP). Over the years he has immersed himself in the subject of “sustainability” and by combining this knowledge with his expertise in marketing and advertising, has published a book titled “Marketing Your Green Side,” which is available through Amazon. Craig is an avid fitness participant, sailor, SCUBA diver, enjoys singing Karaoke, listening to jazz, and is working on his next book. View all posts by craigruark

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