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Glasspockets Find: Documenting a Transparent End to The Atlantic Philanthropies
April 23, 2012

When the board of The Atlantic Philanthropies voted in 2001 to end the foundation’s active grantmaking in 2016 and then close its doors by 2020, it became the largest endowed institution ever to do so.  Atlantic-logo-200The decision meshed well with the philosophy of the foundation’s founder.  To spend down the multi-billion-dollar endowment of The Atlantic Philanthropies within a fixed period of time concurred with Charles F. Feeney’s personal commitment to what he called Giving While Living.  (Mr. Feeney will be nearly 90 years old at the end of 2020.)

Referring to the better-known Giving Pledge in correspondence to Bill Gates in early 2011, Mr. Feeney wrote:

“I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living—to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.  More importantly, today’s needs are so great and varied that intelligent philanthropic support and positive interventions can have greater value and impact today than if they are delayed.”

Mr. Feeney’s foundation has provided Duke University with a grant to fund Winding Down The Atlantic Philanthropies.  The second in this planned series of reports was released in February.  Its subtitle, 2009-2010: Beginning the Endgame, implies that a shift in focus has arrived, nearly a decade after the board’s historic decision.  The report follows the staff’s attempts to begin “an orderly process to ‘imagine the end of Atlantic’.”  As a tool of transparency, the report provides an inside look into the thinking underway.  It also chronicles the challenges and opportunities presented within this context for two of Atlantic’s major programs—Children & Youth in the United States and Population Health in Viet Nam.

Atlantic Philanthropies has an excellent What We’re Learning section that offers many valuable insights into its work that can be used by others in the field.  In addition to the new report, its predecessor in the Winding Down series, The First Eight Years: 2001-2009, is available for free download or to view.

-- Mark Foley

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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

    The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation Center.

    Questions and comments may be
    directed to:

    Janet Camarena
    Director, Transparency Initiatives
    Foundation Center

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