Perched atop the vast operation that is the Open Society Foundations is America's 16th richest man, George Soros, who's worth $24.5 billion as of this writing. Soros has been at the forefront of promoting democratic ideals for some three decades with his global network of foundations, giving away close to $12 billion.
Soros is 85 years old now, and we often wonder what role his children are likely to play in carrying on his philanthropy when he is no longer around. As we reported last year, the Open Society Foundations has been quietly preparing for a post-George era by creating a stronger governance and management structure to guide a professionalized foundation for decades to come—one that is likely to absorb the bulk of the Soros fortune. (That fortune, as we've pointed out, will likely grow even larger in coming years, judging by Soros' investing track record of late. He's more than tripled his wealth since 2005.)
The Open Society Foundations will not operate as a family foundation when Soros is gone. But two of his sons, Alexander and Jonathan, serve on its global board, as does his daughter Andrea, who has long been involved in philanthropic causes, particularly fostering Tibetan culture, as we've written in the past. Meanwhile, George's son Robert is set to take the reins of Soros Fund Management in 2016, according to Forbes. We don't know what sort of wealth the Soros children have inherited or what may be coming their way later on. But there are good reasons to keep an eye on these folks going forward.
While Jonathan Soros is familiar in progressive circles, particularly for his passionate interest in money in politics, Alexander Soros is a less familiar figure. What's his deal?
Well, he's an NYU graduate pursuing a Ph.D. in European History from UC Berkeley, and is already showing interest in following in his father's philanthropic footsteps. In 2012, at just 26, he established the Alexander Soros Foundation, which promotes civil rights, social justice, and education both in the United States and abroad.
In a recent fiscal year, the foundation gave away a little under $900,000. Soros has also made a few million in personal contributions, as well. As for what's being funded so far, Soros supports outfits such as Seeds of Africa, a nonprofit with a focus on education and community development in Ethiopia, the Rainforest Foundation, Global Witness Limited, which "works to expose the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems, to drive campaigns that end impunity, resource-linked conflict, and human rights and environmental abuses," and Libraries Without Borders, "an international humanitarian organization devoted to facilitating the growth of libraries and expanding access to knowledge in the developing world."
Here in the United States, one of Alexander Soros' interests is helping Latino immigrants. In the 2014 fiscal year, Soros gave $150,000 to Mujeres Unidas Y Activas (MUA), "a grassroots organization of Latina immigrant women with a dual mission of personal transformation and community power." He's also supported Make the Road New York, which "builds the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education and the provision of survival services." Additionally, Soros is interested in supporting organizations that advocate for women such as FAIR Girls, which "prevents the exploitation of girls worldwide with empowerment and education," and National Domestic Workers Alliance, "the nation’s leading voice for an estimated 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States, most of whom are women."
Meanwhile, the annual Alexander Soros Foundation Award is given to activists working at the "nexus of environmentalism and human rights." Alphonse Muhindo Valivambene and Bantu Lukumbo, environmental and anti-corruption activists from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recently won the award. On the board membership side, Alexander Soros serves on the boards of Bend the Arc, which supports grassroots efforts to strengthen lower-income neighborhoods across the United States, Global Witness, the Gordon Parks Foundation, and—as we mentioned—the Open Society Foundations.
Born in 1985, the younger Soros hit the ground running with his philanthropy. It'll be interesting to see where he goes and, crucially, what resources he ultimately has at his disposal. Even if George only turns over a small sliver of his fortune to his kids' foundations while directing the bulk to OSF, the Soros children could emerge as a major players in the philanthrosphere. Another question is just how much influence they will have at OSF down the line, especially given the experience that they collectively bring to philanthropy. Will they really just be members of a truly independent governance structure—or something beyond that?