In 2001, the Harlem Children's Zone had a $12 million budget —impressive resources for a nonprofit focused on kids in a poor neighborhood. Within four years, though, its budget had more than doubled, and soared further by 2009 to $40 million. Just three years later, the HCZ's budget had more than doubled yet again, to $95 million.
There are a lot of reasons for the organization's stratospheric rise, including growing attention to early childhood education and phenomenal media for the HCZ and its founder, Geoffrey Canada. Less well known is Stanley Druckemiller's instrumental role in funding the organization's growth as its board chair and largest donor (by far).
Druckenmiller made his fortune in hedge funds (see IP's profile) and is now busy giving that money away at a growing clip. His foundation ranks among the top 100 in the U.S. by asset, with an endowment approaching $1 billion and giving of over $40 million in 2012. And there's plenty more where that came from, given Druckenmiller's fortune of $2.8 billion.
Druckenmiller's support of the Harlem Children's Zone goes back years, when he helped build its board during its early phase, but it's his recent giving to the organization that has been eye opening. He gave the organization $25 million in 2006. And over three years—2009, 2010, and 2011—he gave it at least $46 million. While giving data isn't available on the past two years, it's fair to speculate that Druckenmiller has kept the spigot open. Which means that he has likely given the HCZ around $100 million since 2006.
Alas, there is no clearly replicable moral to this fundraising story. Druckenmiller and Geoffrey Canada are friends from college, and so at least part of Canada's genius in building such a successful organization is that he went to the right college (Bowdoin) and met the right future hedge fund manager.
That said, early childhood education is a cause that's attracting more attention from finance philanthropists for the simple reason that it's such an effective leveraging of money. The Robin Hood Foundation, for example, has long invested in such programs. And another former hedge fund star, John Arnold, recently put up $10 million to help fund Head Start during the government shutdown.
It's hard to identify any Wall Street funder who's giving to ECE at the level of Stanley Druckenmiller. But it's a good bet that one or two billionaires like him are waiting in the wings somewhere.