NET WORTH: $3.3 billion
SOURCE of WEALTH: Enron, Centuarus Engergy
FUNDING AREAS: Criminal Justice, Education, Policy, Health, Research Integrity, Sustainable Public Finance
OVERVIEW: The Arnolds launched the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in 2010, after signing the Giving Pledge. They have since given over $1 billion in their areas of interest, which include criminal justice, education, policy, research integrity, health and sustainable public finance. The Arnold Foundation posts requests for proposals on its website.
BACKGROUND: John Arnold is a Texas native and a graduate of Vanderbilt University. He worked as a natural gas trader at Enron before starting his hedge fund, Centaurus Energy, in 2002. Laura Arnold is a graduate of Harvard and earned a law degree from Yale University. She worked for several years in the energy industry before focusing on philanthropy with her husband.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Arnolds’ criminal justice program “aims to advance community safety and the values of equity, fairness, effectiveness and racial justice.” Through their foundation, the Arnolds have supported the University of Washington’s large-scale study of the imposition of fines and fees by courts in the United States. They have also funded multiple studies on the effect of body cameras worn by police officers at law enforcement departments across the U.S. A complete list of recent criminal justice grantees is available at the foundation’s grants page.
EDUCATION: Education grants account for about 26 percent of the Arnolds’ philanthropy. This initiative prioritizes K-12 education and has supported the portfolio model of school governance, which “separates school oversight from campus operations.” The Arnolds have invested heavily in the large-scale implementation of the the portfolio model in New Orleans, providing seed money for the Educational Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane University. Other past grantees include Teach for America, Head Start and Open Stax, a Rice University program that offers free online college textbooks. A complete list of education grantees is available at the foundation’s grants page.
POLICY: Laura and John Arnold’s work in the area of policy “supports initiatives that encourage governments and nonprofit organizations to help build the evidence base for social interventions and to consider reliable evidence as one of the primary factors in their decisions.” To this end, the Arnolds have funded several policy labs, “which bring together data experts, social scientists and public officials to build public infrastructure and integrate evidence into the day-to-day operations of government.” A compete list of policy grantees is available at the foundations grants page.
HEALTH: The Arnold Foundation’s health initiative aims “to lower health care spending while maintaining access to high-quality care” and supports “the continued reform of the health care delivery system.” One recent sub-initiative has addressed the issue of contraceptive choice and access, with the aim of promoting “reproductive health, planning and choice.” To this end the Arnolds have funded the University of Michigan’s Contraceptive Access Research ad Evaluation Program. Another recent interest concerns the national opioid epidemic. In this area, the Arnolds have funded a study of harm reduction programs for patients who suffer opioid addiction conducted by the Research Triangle Institute.
RESEARCH INTEGRITY: The Arnolds maintain a strong interest in the integrity of scientific research and fund “organizations that are conducting high-quality research, promoting transparency and data sharing in the scientific process, and supporting replication experiments to verify the accuracy of important findings.” One past grantee is the Center for Open Science, which works to improve the transparency of research across scientific disciplines through shared tools and methods and the practice of “preregistering” studies as a means of assessing “whether a study’s findings truly confirm the stated hypothesis.” A complete list of the Arnolds’ grantees in this area is available at their foundation’s grants page.
SUSTAINABLE PUBLIC FINANCE: Through their foundation, the Arnolds have supported public finance initiatives, prioritizing “efforts to help governments evaluate the impact of tax policies and design public pension systems that are affordable, sustainable and secure.” To this end, they have supported research on tax policy at the Brookings Institution, the Tax Policy Center and the Pew Research Center. A complete list of their grantees in this area is available at the foundation’s grants page.
LOOKING FORWARD: While the Arnolds have established core philanthropic interests in criminal justice, education, policy, health, research and taxation, their sub-initiatives within these areas can vary significantly from year to year. Their foundation is likely to post new RFPs in emerging areas of interest on a regular basis.