Atlantic Philanthropies is going to stick around until 2020, but 2016 marks its 35th and final year of grantmaking. During Atlantic’s decades-long run, it has been operating under founder Chuck Feeney’s ethos of “Giving While Living.”
And Feeney didn’t jump on the more recent trend of high-net-worth individuals pledging to donate their fortunes to the greater good while they’re still alive. He’s been at it since the mid-1980s, when he transferred nearly all of his sizeable assets to his foundation. At one point, Feeney was worth $7.5 billion.
But enough with the backstory, already. Let's get to the fun stuff, like where the last big chunks of Feeney's money are headed. As the foundation’s official sunset date approaches, Atlantic has been making some pretty big financial bets in its five areas of grantmaking focus. When we talked a while back with Atlantic's CEO, Chris Oechsli, he explained that these so-called "culminating grants" were going out to groups or new initiatives that the foundation felt were best positioned to advance its goals in the decades to come. Landing one of the grants is a very big deal, and we've reported on several of them—including a $15 million score by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
More recently came news of Atlantic's $40 million investment in increasing access to affordable, quality healthcare in Southeast Asia.
The money funds the Transformative Leaders in Health Equity initiative, a 20-year fellowship program aiming to reduce health disparities and increase access to quality health care in the region by supporting the growth and development of new leaders in health equity. The initiative hopes to graduate some 500 new, innovative leaders over the course of the next 20 years.
Oechsli said in a press release that the overall goals of the initiative are to “raise the quality of health care, health outcomes and, indeed, quality of life across entire populations, without disparities associated with socioeconomic status.”
The initiative, which is launching in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi, is being further bolstered by the China Medical Board, which plans to contribute an additional $10 million.
Atlantic’s founding chairman Chuck Feeney has been famously quiet, bordering on reclusive, about his fortune and his philanthropy—but in a good way. During the early half of Atlantic Philanthropies activity, all of its grants were made anonymously. But the foundation’s ongoing conclusion is a much different story.
Atlantic’s mission, philosophies, and strategies may have remained the same, but instead of quietly fading to black, this funder looks like it’s going out with an incredible bang—and it’s not finished yet. As Oechsli has written, “Stay tuned. The symphony is building and there are key movements to come.”