Dalio Foundation: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Dalio Foundation has assests close to $1 billion, and has given away over a hundred million annually in recent years. The foundation has been ramping up its giving significantly in recent years, and that includes its conservation grantmaking.

IP TAKE: Ray Dalio is one of the richest people in the hedge fund business, and has a keen interest in the environment. He's also signed the Giving Pledge. For these reasons, this funder should be watched closely by environmental groups. One recent development is the Dalio Explore Fund, which supports environmental research projects.

PROFILE: Born in Queens, Ray Dalio went to Harvard Business School and soon thereafter founded hedge fund company Bridgewater Associates. The company has grown to be one of the most successful hedge funds in the country and Dalio himself has a net worth of over $15 billion. He and his wife Barbara signed the Giving Pledge, where Dalio writes that he's "wild about the wild."  

Since the Dalio Foundation was founded in 2003, the environment has been an area where the foundation has focused a lot of its grantmaking. In recent years, the foundation has given grants as high as $10 million and as low as $1,000 to various environmental conservation organizations. Generally these gifts are under $100,000 and doled out mainly to outfits based in Connecticut, New York, and Florida. 

Both Ray Dalio and his wife Barbara and their foundation are based in Connecticut, where, unsurprisingly, a good amount of their grantmaking takes place. In recent years, grants have gone to the Camp Fire Conservation Fund, the Greenwich Land Trust, Greenwich Tree Conservancy and Garden Education Center of Greenwich.

It's worth noting that the foundation has given to national organizations that work within the regions the foundation prefers. For instance, in 2011, the foundation gave to the Nature Conservancy for a specific conservation initiative for the Connecticut River.

Some of the foundation's larger gifts, however, have gone to organizations quite removed from Connecticut. Duck Unlimited, a wetlands and waterfowl conservation organization based in Tennessee received a couple of grants for several hundred thousand dollars recently. The Bainbridge Island Land Trust in Washington State has seen support from the foundation as well. The reason for this gift might be a prominent Bainbridge Island based architect named James Cutler, who has known Dalio since 2000. The two have been involved in several construction projects that have yet to get off the ground, one of which involves the architect designing a new Bridgewater headquarters for Dalio and another, designing a home for Dalio in Wyoming.

The foundation has given millions to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a non-profit research and higher education organization that studies marine science and engineering.

Dalio recently set up what's called the "Dalio Explore Fund" to bankroll a number of different environmental and scientific research projects. There's little information on the precise mandate of the Fund, but what we do know is that the fund has supported research into hurricanes and global warming in Cape Cod. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute is also a major site of the Dalio Explore Fund, where a telescope project studied Plankton in the Pacific .

As well, $10 million went to the National Geographic Society towards a Dalio Explore Fund at that outfit, and $7.5 million went to John's Hopkins towards the fund there. It's definitely safe to say that the Dalio Explore Fund is a high priority of Dalio's philanthropy of late.


It's worth noting that Dalio has served on the board of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), where he has donated at least $8 million. Other animal organizations such as the Greenwich Audubon Society and World Wildlife Fund have been supported by the foundation.

Unforunately, the Dalio Foundation doesn't make things easy for grantseekers. It one-page website provides no guidelines for grants. On the other hand, this operation gives money to a lot of organizations.