OVERVIEW: Signatories to the Giving Pledge, Ray Dalio and his wife Barbara donate to hundreds of nonprofits every year through the Dalio Foundation. Education--including at the postsecondary level--is among the foundation's highest priorities, and universities have received support for medical and environmental research, scholarships, and arts programs, to name a few.
IP TAKE: The Dalios have major assets and have ramped up their giving significantly in recent years. However, the path to earning support is unclear, since the foundation has no website or clear grantmaking guidelines.
PROFILE: Queens, New York, native Ray Dalio described himself as a mediocre student growing up. It wasn't until he took up meditation that he really found balance in his life. Now he runs one of the most successful hedge funds in the country, Bridgewater Associates, and is worth more than $15 billion.
Founded in 2003, the Dalio Foundation (formerly known as the Dalio Family Foundation) holds north of $800 million in assets as of the most recent information available. In addition, its grantmaking has soared in recent years, jumping from $44 million in 2011 to a reported $119 million in 2014.
Meditation and general mental health are two of Dalio's chief interests, but he and his wife Barbara give to a wide range of organizations working in many areas.
One of the biggest winners here is higher education, including post-secondary institutions with programs in the arts. New York University's Tisch School of the Arts has received several million dollars in recent years, much of it to endow the Dalio Talent Identification Fund for film students. Dalio, in fact, is a member of the Tisch School of the Arts Dean's Council and has a track record of support for NYU. Along similar lines, Tulane University in New Orleans recently received modest support for the "Trombone Shorty Academy," which is “an afterschool music education program for high school musicians.”
Universities working on medical research have also benefited from Dalio’s support. For example, the foundation recently awarded a $250,000 grant to the Center for Epithelial Disorders at Johns Hopkins University. The Dalio Foundation gave an equal amount that same year to the Esophageal Disease Fund at Columbia, and it has also supported the New York Cornell Medical Center.
Pursuant to Dalio's interest in environmental affairs, the foundation gave a number of six-figure grants to the Delaware-based University of Queensland in America for the purpose of supporting the Lanternfish Project to study spawning aggregations in the western Coral Sea. In another instance, Swansea University in Wales received a multi-year, $750,000 grant to support the Great Reef Experience Digital Project, an initiative that “uses computers to model Australia's Great Barrier Reef and create interactive content to follow research discoveries at five pioneering research stations along the length of the reef.”
As the grant to Swansea shows, higher ed funding is not limited to institutions in the United States. Most noteworthy is a recent $10 million gift the foundation awarded to the recently-opened Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in China. Against that backdrop, it’s worth noting that Ray and Barbara’s son Matthew is an active global philanthropist with a particular interest in China.
Pre-university education is another major beneficiary of the Dalio Foundation. The couple's Giving Pledge letter mentions that Barbara “gives particular attention to trying to help inner city education." This seems aligned with the foundation's strong support for organizations such as Achievement First (a charter school network in New York), Teach for America, Bronx Success Academy Charter School, Harlem Children's Zone, Harlem School of the Arts, and New Visions Public Schools. In addition, the foundation has given big to the Richard and Barbara Whitcomb Foundation, which supports a range of education-related programs that include “local and regional after-school programs, scholarship programs, fitness, [and] nutrition,” among others.
It's clear that higher education is one of many areas Dalio Foundation supports with grants. In addition to the large grants mentioned above, the foundation has also given general operating support to a handful of universities, with awards usually ranging from around $500 to the low thousands.
At the same time, this is a family foundation's one-page website offers no clear grantmaking guidelines. So while it moves a lot of money annually to many organizations, it remains unclear how to connect with the foundation for support.
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