The Kinders Have $11B, and They Love Parks. Mostly in Houston.

Rich and Nancy Kinder have pledged to give 95 percent of their enormous wealth to charitable causes. And that’s pretty much all going to Texas. That’s increasingly good news for Houston’s parks.   

Move over Diller-von Furstenberg! Houston’s private parks philanthropy scene is blowing up, and its biggest patrons are Rich and Nancy Kinder. The couple made news last year when they pledged $50 million to a transformative urban trails project unfolding in Houston called the Bayou Greenways plan. 

Related - Who’s Paying for Houston’s Bayou Greenways?

This is a huge commitment and the biggest in the history of the Houston parks system. But that’s just the tip of the oil rig when it comes to the Kinders and their Kinder Family Foundation. The couple have committed to give almost all of their Kinder Morgan oil pipeline fortune away via their foundation. And it’s mostly staying in state, with one of three priorities being green spaces.

The foundation is currently endowed with about $140 million, but Forbes puts Richard’s net worth at $11.2 billion. And if the foundation keeps its current focus on Texas, with an emphasis on the Houston area, that suggests a huge amount of local funding in coming years.

Indeed, the foundation has so far given at least $230 million, and annual grantmaking is growing. In 2010, it gave out about $8 million, and this year it’s budgeted $41 million. 

Related: The New Golden Age of Urban Parks Philanthropy (And Its Controversies)

Similarly, the projects it supports have been ramping up in scope. One of the Kinders’ first large projects, Discovery Green, received a $10 million commitment in 2004. In 2010, they pledged $30 million for Buffalo Bayou Park. And then the big 2013 commitment to the Greenways. 

So what can we expect from the Kinders in the coming years? Well for one, probably not a long list of recipients, and they won’t be throwing the doors open to potential grantees either. 

In a recent interview, Nancy Kinder described how the couple initially started giving to a large list of nonprofits, then decided that wasn’t right for them. Now they almost always seek out projects they see as having a need, within their three priorities, and approach the people involved with a proposal of their own. 

As for what gets their attention next, I'm sure there's some joke about Texas to be made here. 

Related: Kinder Foundation: Grants for Parks & Gardens