Friday, February 27, 2015
For more than twenty-five years, The Atlantic Philanthropies has been one of the most important funding sources for nonprofit and NGO work on health, education and equality issues in the U.S. and beyond, often providing key support for legal advocates including those at the National Senior Citizens Law Center (with its new name, Justice in Aging). My first encounter with AP began in Ireland in 2009-10, when I was based at the Changing Ageing Partnership, an AP funded-project at Queen's University Belfast.
Everywhere I turned during that sabbatical, I encountered the good works underway as the result of Chuck Feeney's decision in the mid-1980s to transfer virtually all of his considerable personal wealth to Atlantic. I learned that for the first half of AP's history, the grantmaking was anonymous and Chuck Feeney's role was largely unknown. The publication of The Billionaire Who Wasn't, by Irish writer Conor O'Clery, helped to change that visibility, and Mr. Feeney began to embrace a more public commitment to "giving while living."
My own work was impacted by what I learned that year, and I soon added a course on Nonprofit Organizations Law to my teaching package at Penn State's Dickinson Law.
Now Atlantic Philanthropies is facing its final two years of new grants, with 2016 being the concluding year. The final grants will focus on four themes:
- Inequality, Democracy & Social Change – eliminating obstacles to educational and economic opportunity, promoting racial equity, delivering on the promises of democracy and sharing how support for evidence-based advocacy can deliver social change and influence government policy and practice
- Health Sciences and Innovation – facilitating collaboration and cooperation principally among key Atlantic grantee institutions to maximise the prospects for partnership, discovery, innovation and sustainable solutions to some of the greatest health burdens of our time consistent with Atlantic’s historical programmes
- Health Equity – developing leaders, building capacity and training the personnel who work to improve health and provide equitable access to quality care
- Giving While Living – encouraging strategic, outcome-oriented philanthropy by high net worth individuals within their lifetimes by demonstrating effective approaches and identifying risks and pitfalls.
With its final grants, Atlantic hopes to support "transformative, lasting changes within communities and in issue areas where Atlantic has made significant, longstanding investments." Christopher G. Oechsli, the President and CEO of AP echoes Chuck Feeney in describing these projects as "big bets."
For more on the final, extraordinary projects, and the opportunity for others to emerge, read The Fierce Urgency of Atlantic: Bending the Arc in our Final Years.