Hank Paulson’s Family Foundation is for the Birds

Long before Henry M. Paulson, Jr., was U.S. Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush, he wanted to be a forest ranger. Together with wife Wendy, an active birder, conservationist, and environmental educator, they oversee a significant funder of protections our feathered friends. 

Wendy Paulson is mostly running the Paulsons' family foundation, called the Bobolink Foundation after an adorable little songbird, but the two have long shared a passion for protecting wildlife and the environment.

Wendy is the pro in the family, leading birding hikes in their home state of Illinois, teaching school children on the subject, and even writing a bird column for a local news site. But she actually credits Hank for getting her into bird-watching. The former chair of Goldman Sachs is a serious nature lover at heart, also having served as chair of The Nature Conservancy, and one of the only members of the Bush cabinet who was vocally in favor of strong action on climate change.

With the couple and their adult kids (one of whom owns two pro soccer teams in Portland) serving as the only trustees, and no staff or even website, Bobolink has given between $3 million and $8 million in most years, almost entirely to wildlife, and with a big focus on birds.  

Any birds in particular? Well, a pretty wide array: owls, birds of prey, puffins, cranes, shrub-nesting passerines. While big global groups like The Nature Conservancy and the WWF receive some of the largest grants, there are a few other notable beneficiaries:

  • Rare is the largest grantee of the Bobolink Foundation, receiving more than $9 million in the most recent five years of giving on record. The global organization was founded to protect the Saint Lucia Parrot, but now works to establish wildlife preserves with support from local communities. 
  • The American Bird Conservatory regularly receives six-figure grants from Bobolink, as high as $200,000 in a single year. The group works to protect native birds and their habitats.
  • Wendy Paulson is very involved in the Audubon Society, and gives annual grants in a similar range to the Chicago chapter and, to a lesser extent, the New York chapter.
  • Hank Paulson used to be on the board of The Peregrine Fund, an organization that focuses on protecting birds of prey. The foundation still makes regular six-figure grants to the group. 

And the best thing about the Paulsons’ foundation (aside from the fact that most grants are unrestricted funds) is that, while they do give to a few peregrin falcon-sized organizations, there’s also a very long list of groups on the finch scale that receive support. 

Read more about the Bobolink Foundation in our full IP Profile