Surprising New Philanthropic Focus: Reforming the Pentagon

"Ain’t gonna make war no more" is not yet a dominant refrain in American private philanthropy. Yet a growing number of private foundations are funding NGOs that work to reform Pentagon spending or demilitarize American foreign policy. Joining the ranks of behemoths like the MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Hewlett Foundation, the smaller but highly focused Arca Foundation has made its presence felt with a number of grants to non-profit groups active in defense issues.

Arca means "ark" in Italian and "treasure chest" in Greek — a place for, or means to, protection and refuge. To help give refuge to a world wracked by terrorism, perpetual violence in the Middle East, genocide in Central America, and rising tension between the U.S. and the states of China and Russia, the Arca Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., funded twelve peace NGOs in its last round of grants, with amounts ranging from $15,000 to $100,000. Some grants provided general institutional support and others, special project support.

The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, for example, won a $50,000 grant for its Pentagon Budget Campaign, an effort to illuminate "wasteful spending on outdated weapons" in an era "demanding a broader vision of security based on law enforcement, intelligence, immigration polity, border security, foreign assistance, economic development, and diplomacy."

In the same fall funding cycle, Arca also backed similar military reform organizations, including the National Security Archive Fund (general support), the Center for International Policy’s "Win Without War" Project, and the National Security Project (general support). Although the occassional $100,000 grant is awarded, an average Arca grant is $50,000.

In founding what became the Arca Foundation, the late Nancy Susan Reynolds believed that a charity like hers should not supplant government action. Of this there would seem to be little risk; the world’s governments sold $85 billion in arms in 2011 alone, and double the figure for 2010.

To qualify for an Arca grant, proposals must meet either its February 1 or August 1 deadlines. Be prepared to submit a rigorous evaluation method, with specific benchmarks to track your progress. All applications must be submitted through the foundation’s online portal, which it will set up one month before each deadline. Arca accepts no letters of inquiry and will not consider requests sent via mail or email. No requests for emergency funding between cycles, thank you very much. Funding is also unavailable for scholarship, scholarly research, individuals or capital projects.