What Does George Mitchell’s Large Bequest Mean for Energy Grants?

George Mitchell, Texas businessman and fracking pioneer, was also a generous philanthropist. He gave frequently to Texan organizations, supporting local culture and arts. However, the main focus of the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation (see IP Profile) has been sustainability science, especially in the areas of natural gas and clean energy. Since 1978, the foundation has granted over $400 million, and before his death, George Mitchell had pledged to give away a large part of his wealth. This could mean changes are a-coming to the foundation, but don’t hold your breath.

George Mitchell, a former Forbes 400 member, had an estimated net worth of $2 billion when he passed away and he left $750 million of that wealth to his family foundation. This bequest made him the second most generous donor of 2013 (number one was Mark Zuckerberg), according to the Philanthropy 50 list compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  This is good news for folks in the sustainability and clean energy fields. However, those of you strapped for cash right now are just going to have to wait.

Mitchell’s assets are currently frozen until his estate is settled. The process could take at least three years according to Katherine Lorenz, Mitchell’s granddaughter and current president of the foundation. The foundation has set 2018 as its year to expand into poverty and education on Galveston Island. In the meantime, the foundation will continue its grant programs in clean energy, natural gas sustainability, water, and sustainability science. Current commitments, such as those made to the Cook’s Branch Conservancy, a habitat preserve in East Texas, will continue to be funded.

The foundation will continue to work out of its current endowment, which has about $120 million in assets. But spending will likely be curbed until Mitchell’s estate is settled. Grantees in the sustainability and clean energy field should keep an eye on this foundation. Expect to see an influx of wealth a few years from now.