MacArthur will narrow its focus to address global climate change and reform the U.S. criminal justice system - Julie Stasch,President of the MacArthur Foundation
“I can only surmise that you underestimate, or perhaps wish not to engage with, my misgivings about, and objections to, Atlantic’s current grant making focus, the structure of the board and certain of its practices, and a number of operational aspects, including ever-increasing staff numbers and elevated overhead costs.” Feeney reiterated that he was less exercised about “social justice” as a philanthropic theme than he was about whether it was “a worthy use of our resources - from Chuck Feeny Fights Back
When Feeney made billions of dollars with his Duty Free Airport shops, he decided to give away most of what he had earned. He formed Atlantic Philanthropies and 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to making better world. He formed a board, as did John MacArthur here in Chicago, and trusted people to make good use of his money. In 1981, Chicago based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation purged its board of any and all member with "conservative" inclinations, like former Secretary of the Treasury William Simon. Atlantic Philanthropies did likewise.
However, Chuck Feeney fought back. Here is a detailed story of how Marxist and Left Leaning activists abuse philanthropy. Click Chuck Feeney's name in the first paragraph to read the full story.
This is very long, very clearly written piece. I will merely cut and paste the conclusion for you here below, but do read the study in its entirety - Public Policy is not Philanthropy. The Public Policy Pirates and people who hate how Chuck Feeney made his fortune work with political leeches and agenda driven activists to make this world, more hungry, less free and very dangerous.
Chuck Feeney initially sought anonymity as he gave away his fortune, but he is now very much a public figure. In that anonymous January 2010 letter, Feeney’s friends said they hoped he himself would make public the story of how AP’s board grew deaf to the wishes of its founder—as paraphrased by O’Clery, “so that those who might follow [Feeney] could benefit from his mistakes as well as his successes.” That would include the matter of how hard Feeney had to fight to preserve his vision for his own foundation versus that of certain board members.
Feeney’s story contains an obvious lesson about protecting donor intent, one that this writer imagines is being very carefully, if quietly, studied by individuals and families who have already endowed, or are considering endowing, some of their wealth to foundations.
On that score, there’s a telling moment in the book where Feeney, Bill Gates, and future AP CEO Christopher Oeschli are sitting together in January 2011. Oeschli asks Gates about his experience with “outside advisors” in running a foundation. “We discovered they bring an agenda and ego of their own,” Gates says.
As Feeney’s own story shows, that agenda and ego can clash directly with a donor’s stated, expressed intent. But a donor does not have to simply cave in when that intent comes under attack. The donor doesn’t have to accept the attacks, or be intimidated by self-important “advisors” on a foundation board with august pedigrees or overfed egos.
If there’s a lesson in Feeney’s experience, it might be (paraphrasing Esther Forbes’ novel Johnny Tremain) that “a donor can stand up.”
Neil Maghami’s most recent piece for CRC was “Tom Steyer, the New Paladin of the Left” (Foundation Watch, August 2014).
FW to friends.
*Charles Francis "Chuck" Feeney is an Irish-American businessman and philanthropist and the founder of The Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the largest private foundations in the world