Understanding the Basics of Kentucky’s Abercrombie Foundation

Lexington, KY. Photo: aceshot1/shutterstock

Lexington, KY. Photo: aceshot1/shutterstock

There’s a lot of money in the horse racing industry—not just in betting at the track, but also among the individuals who keep the sport popular and thriving. This is most evident in the city of Lexington, Kentucky, home to the world-famous Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Now well into her 90s, Josephine Abercrombie is the president of the Versailles, Kentucky-based Abercrombie Foundation and is committed to horse racing organizations in Lexington and beyond. Here are the basics to know about this locally focused funder in the Southeast.

Kentucky and Texas Are Centers of Giving

Today’s Abercrombie Foundation is a partial successor to the J.S. Abercrombie Foundation, named after Josephine’s father. He was an oilman, civic leader and philanthropist who mostly focused his charitable giving to hospitals, such as the Texas Heart Institute. However, Josephine was his only child and took over the family’s philanthropy after his death. She has approached giving more broadly and given to a wide variety of local causes related to education, animal welfare, human services, the environment, health, and arts and culture.

Much of Abercrombie’s recent grantmaking is focused on Kentucky these days, and more specifically, the Lexington area. Past grantees in the state include Bluegrass Tomorrow, Commonwealth Fund for KET, the Lexington School, and the Lexington Theatre Company. Grantmaking in Texas is intermittent now, but is often focused on Houston. Horse racing has always been important to Josephine Abercrombie, and therefore, the foundation supports national horse racing organizations, too.

Josephine Abercrombie is a Fascinating Leader

Josephine Abercrombie brings a lot of interesting experiences to the philanthropic table. Born in 1926, she grew up riding horses on a West Texas ranch and found early success while competing in horse shows. The family’s connection to Kentucky originated when her family built Pin Oak Park in Woodford County, Kentucky, and established an operation for thoroughbred breeding there.

Abercrombie was married and divorced five times. In 1982, she started the Houston Boxing Association, which hosted up to 50 fights per year. She was known for providing health insurance and profit-sharing benefits with her boxers, as well as letting them live rent-free in apartments while training. Abercrombie was involved in philanthropy well before this, though, and opened a private K-8 school called the Lexington School back in 1959. She also co-founded a nonprofit called the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, which takes in horses that are no longer wanted or needed for racing.

Unsolicited Grant Requests Are Discouraged  

Much of what we can ascertain about the Abercrombie Foundation’s grantmaking comes from its tax filings, because the funder does not have a website or publish its guidelines. Although this funder regularly gives out annual grants that are a few thousand dollars each, it is not open to receiving unsolicited requests and prefers only to support pre-selected organizations.

Learn more about the this funder and how to get in touch with the foundation manager and president in IP’s full profile of the Abercrombie Foundation.