Robert Wilson

New York, New York

Award Type: Crowninshield Award

Few philanthropists have done more for the preservation movement than Robert Wilson. He has helped the World Monuments Fund save irreplaceable monuments worldwide, and enabled the New York Landmarks Conservancy to restore beloved religious landmarks closer to home, thanks to his support of their Sacred Sites program.

Moreover, his $5 million matching grant to the National Trust’s Partners in the Field program put boots on the ground in 30 states, helping to protect more than 1,600 historic places nationwide. Wilson’s grants have transformed the organizations that protect America’s cultural heritage, building a stronger, more mature movement in the process. The benefits of his vision will be felt for generations to come.

It takes a big vision to make a big difference. And vision is what Robert Wilson brings to the cause of preservation. Few philanthropists have done more for the movement. And even fewer have produced such dramatic results. Wilson’s generosity makes groups stronger by requiring that his funds be matched. For instance, he helped the World Monuments Fund recruit more international donors by matching gifts from outside the United States. The challenge has inspired contributions from 35 countries to date and is still going strong. World Monuments Fund has greater financial stability and people worldwide have the chance to experience breathtaking monuments that would otherwise have been lost.

The same model has produced tangible results in the United States as well. His challenge grants to the New York Landmarks Conservancy have helped to restore inspiring religious architecture statewide. Challenge grants to the National Trust for Historic Preservation helped build a network of field offices with the capacity to save important places nationwide. And a $5 million matching grant to the National Trust’s Partners in the Field program has put boots on the ground in 30 states. Wilson-supported field reps have worked to protect more than 1600 historic places, from a beloved school in Buffalo Kentucky to a covered bridge in rural New Hampshire to a 100-acre farm in Pennsylvania.

Partners in the Field has been transformative for state and local organizations, which are required to match Wilson‘s funds. That requirement has dramatically increased local fundraising capacity, so much so that nearly 70 percent of organizations are expected to continue to provide comprehensive field services after the grant period ends.

“Mr. Wilson has transformed preservation fundraising in the U.S. and abroad, while also dramatically increasing the capacity of state and local organizations to protect the special and irreplaceable in their communities,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Preservationists worldwide owe him a debt of gratitude for his inspiring and visionary leadership.”