Last year, we read an article about the top finance guys who are engaged in high-level giving for environmental causes. The influx of such donors has been a striking trend that's helped boost the size of top green groups and changed how some of them operate, in ways either good or bad depending on your point of view.
One name that wasn't on that list, but perhaps should have been, is Stanley Druckenmiller, who made his multi-billion-dollar fortune in hedge funds.
On his philanthropic strategy, Druckenmiller has said that he likes "putting his eggs in one basket and then watching that basket carefully." This has resulted in huge sums for Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), which has received at least $100 million from Druckenmiller and his wife Fiona in just around a decade.
Both K-12 and higher education are priorities for the couple. But in just a few years, there's been a sizable uptick in the couple's environmental philanthropy as well. In 2011, the headlining environmental grant from the Druckenmillers was a $1.7 million gift to the Environmental Defense Fund, where their daughter Hannah once worked and where Druckenmiller sits on the board (along with a few other Wall Street types, including the billionaire Julian Robertson). Apart from this gift to EDF, though, there wasn't much other environmental giving from Druckenmiller.
In 2013, however, gifts to the Environmental Defense Fund totalled around $3.45 million, with sizeable sums also going to a growing list of outfits including Oceana ($200,000), the Everglades Foundation (at least $100,000) and the Mississippi Audubon Society (at least $100,000). The couple even helped fund the Oceana Ball that year. All the while, the couple's longstanding support of Harlem Children's Zone still held true, with another $11 million going to HCZ in 2013.
So what's to account for this uptick? And how do we account for a funder who, by his own admission, likes to keep his eggs in one basket?
Well, for one, Druckenmiller has been upping his philanthropy game overall. The Druckenmiller Foundation has steadily increased its assets and annual giving in recent years. In 2011 and 2012, the outfit was giving out around $42 million annually. At the end of 2013, however, the foundation's assets sat at nearly $1 billion, and around $74.5 million moved out the door that year. That's a huge increase in annual giving, one that could be higher in 2014, when those numbers come in. Which is why, back in August, we named Stanley Druckenmiller one of the most generous people in finance.
It's also important to note that Druckenmiller retired from business at the start of the decade, leaving more time for philanthropy. While his relationship with HCZ dates back to when he was still involved with business, now that he and his wife have more time to think about their philanthropy, it's possible that their interests have expanded and deepened as well.
In addition, the role a funder's children can play in philanthropy bears repeating. For the Druckenmillers, this holds true in other areas of their philanthropy; his daughter Hannah's alma mater Stanford University has received millions over the years. Speaking of Hannah, in addition to having worked for Environmental Defense Fund, she has also worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council and majored in Earth systems as a undergrad, doing research on ocean fisheries. So perhaps Hannah has played a role in shaping the direction of family giving.
Regardless, the environment is clearly a growing interest for the Druckenmillers. And once the Druckenmillers are passionate about something, if the past is any indication, this spells good news for grantseekers.
Oh, and one other thing: Beyond the billion dollars sitting in the family foundation, Stanley Druckenmiller has another $3 billion in personal wealth. And judging by his track record as a hedge fund manager, that pile could well get a lot bigger over time.
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