Martha Livingston, The Starr Foundation

TITLE: Vice President

FUNDING AREAS: Education, health care, human needs, public policy, culture, and the environment

CONTACT: Martha.Livingston@StarrFoundation.org, 212-909-3600

IP TAKE: Livingston oversees a small office that has a very large cash flow and a high degree of caution when it comes to selecting causes with which to share that money. Well-established organizations with solid project plans and well-proven track records stand the best chance.

PROFILE: As The Starr Foundation's vice president, Martha Livingston has a leading role in one of the largest private foundations in the country. The Starr Foundation maintains a $1.25 billion endowment and draws from it to issue tens of millions of dollars in grant funding every year to causes throughout the United States and the world.

Livingston has worked in the public policy arena all of her career life, and she dealt in some technological and research areas that relate to the environment well before joining The Starr Foundation. But like the Starr Foundation itself, she has tended toward education, health, and other human-interest areas. Her career path began at the law firm of Swidler & Berlin, where she was an associate from 1991 to 1994. Her next gig was as a policy analyst at the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. Then, from 1996 to 2001, she held a series of positions in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In 2001, Livingston became a program officer at New York City's now-defunct Picower Foundation. She held this position until 2005, and during that time awarded grants primarily to New York and Florida youth services, education programs, and medical research.

Health care and education are The Starr Foundation's foremost areas of interest, but the group has been dispensing a number of grants to environment-related initiatives in recent years as well. In some years, its contributions to initiatives against climate change have been among the highest of any foundation in the country.

Some beneficiaries in recent years include the Center for National Interest, to which Starr gave $1.1 million for general operating support of its climate change and energy security programs, and the Securing America's Future Energy Foundation, which received $250,000 from Starr for general operating support. Climate initiatives in Asia and New York seem to be the foundation's preferred targets for climate-related grant funding.

Overall, however, Starr's support for climate initiatives has modulated up and down over the years and has not shown the consistency with which the foundation supports other, more human-centric projects.

Regardless of the cause, environmental or otherwise, grantseekers should be aware that this foundation is very particular about which organizations it will support. Its website instructs grantseekers not to send proposals. The foundation's review board scans for potential causes to fund, and if yours is one that the board likes, Starr will invite you to submit a proposal and, possibly, meet with staff members to discuss your project in person. In essence, it's the Starr Foundation, and not the grantseeker, that does the soliciting. Well-established organizations with proven track records of success stand the best chances of receiving Starr support.