NET WORTH: $16.8 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Bridgewater Associates
FUNDING AREAS: Education, Health, Community Development, Environment
OVERVIEW: A signatory to the Giving Pledge, Dalio donates to hundreds of nonprofits every year through the Dalio Foundation. He has been ramping up his giving significantly in recent years. Dalio's interests include the environment, global development and disaster relief, and the New York and Connecticut communities. One of the largest priorities of his philanthropy has been transcendental meditation, mind/body wellness, and education.
BACKGROUND: Dalio was born in Queens, New York, and attended Long Island University and Harvard Business School before going to work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange trading commodities futures. In 1975, he started Bridgewater Associates, which became the largest hedge fund in the world in 2012, with some $160 billion in assets under management as of 2014. His personal wealth as also shot up in recent years, particularly after successfully predicting the housing market crash in 2007.
Along with his wealth, Dalio's philanthropy has also increased by leaps and bounds since he founded his family foundation in 2003. In 2005, he was doing $3.8 million in grants, followed by $5.6 and $8.9 million in 2006 and 2007, respectively. In 2008, it increased to $15 million, and hovered slightly above that the next couple years before jumping to a whopping $44 million in 2011. In 2013, meanwhile, that number soared to $109 million and a statement from the the Dalio Foundation reported that it gave away $119 million in 2014.
PHILOSOPHY: Dalio, in a 2007 letter to a Westport, CT woman who had accused him of miserliness because he would not give to a local First Night event, has claimed he doesn’t give to people he doesn’t know, which explains why many of the grants given by the Dalio Foundation go to Connecticut-based charities. It would seem that the Dalio Foundation has gotten to know a lot of people, however, because they give out grants to somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 organizations annually. In their pledge letter, the Dalios note the “thrills” they’ve experienced in making a “huge difference” with “relatively small amounts of money.” Not that they don't give in big chunks as well--in 2013 there were 23 organizations that received grants of $1 million or more, and plenty of others in the hundreds of thousands. Many of the organizations to which he has given also seem to take creative or unorthodox approaches to healthcare, environmental progress, or financial stability, and rely on educational or training that aims to promote agency for their recipients.
EDUCATION: Education is one of Dalio's main philanthropic passions, and where much of his money goes. In Connecticut especially, you'd be hard-pressed to find a private or charter school that hasn't received money from his foundation. St. Luke's School is the biggest winner here, having received somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.7 million. The Brunswick School and Greenwich Country Day have also received over a million each, Achievement First, a charter school system, has received more than $2 million between 2012 and 2013 alone, and numerous others that have gotten more token donations, usually in the $5,000-$10,000 range, though they are often recurring.
When it comes to higher education, the big winners are Harvard (at least $38.1M), NYU's Tisch School (at least $4.5M), Johns Hopkins (at least $11M), Duke (at least $2M), Marymount California University ($1M in 2013), Tsinghua University (at least $10M), and the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa, though some of this money, like the donations to Johns Hopkins, is more appropriately placed under health giving. Smaller donations have also been made to Yale, Rutgers, Stanford, American University, and the University of Pennsylvania.
The Dalio foundation also offers support for educational foundations and programs at a local level, mostly in Connecticut and New York, though some outstanding institutions in Boston, San Jose, and Washington State have also received funding. On a national level, the Dalios are major supporters of Teach for America, having given the organization somewhere in the range of $5 million.
HEALTH: The Dalios' giving in the health arena is considerably different than most major philanthropists. Yes, they've made a dozens of donations to cancer fighting organizations, children's and other specialty hospitals, but these are generally token gifts that rarely exceed $25,000, and all told, amount to no more than a few hundred thousand dollars--nothing more than a drop in their proverbial philanthropic bucket.
Health Corps, an organization that focuses on nutrition, particularly for youth, has received sums over the years, but the Dalios' real focus is on the mental aspect, and mind/body wellness, which makes sense, considering that in his book, “Principles by Ray Dalio,” Dalio credits meditation with piloting him toward astonishing wealth and success. The major recipient here is the David Lynch Foundation in Fairfield, Iowa, which has received at least $13 million, focuses on the benefits of transcendental meditation in reducing stress and improving cognitive development, creating a tie-in between health and education. Another major recipient on this front is the World Community for Christian Meditation. The London-based organization has received around $1 million.
Fitting in with Dalio's passion for transcendental meditation, the Dalios are strong supporters of research and treatment for mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder. The Foundation for Education and Research on Mental Illness has received more than $1.7 million, the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Foundation has received at least $400,000 for a bipolar research initiative, and the Center for Environmental Therapeutics has received $250,000, also for a bipolar initiative. Smaller grants have gone mostly to Connecticut area hospitals and foundations for mental health treatment, and those major donations to Johns Hopkins were directed toward their Mood Disorders Center. Also in the mental health arena, the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation has been supported. People with disabilities, whether veterans or otherwise, have also benefitted under the aegises of the recipients Sail to Prevail and Lead the Way.
Recently, Dalio has moved into other more conventional health outfits, and gave $30 million to support projects and research across the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System.
ENVIRONMENT: Dalio has served on the board of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), where he has donated at least $8 million. In the past, a lot of Dalio's work in this area has been local to Connecticut and New York, where outfits such as Camp Fire Conservation Fund, the Greenwich Land Trust, and Central Park Conservancy have received sums. Larger sums have gone to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a nonprofit research and higher education organization in Mississippi that studies marine science and engineering. More recently, Dalio has set up what's called the Dalio Explore Fund to bankroll a number of different environmental and scientific research projects, many of which are focused on marine and ocean conservation. $10 million went to the National Geographic Society towards a Dalio Explore Fund at that outfit, and $7.5 million went to John's Hopkins towards the fund there. In 2015, Dalio joined the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group of investors organized by Bill Gates.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: Community enrichment programs, often with an educational focus, including The Boy Scouts of America, the Carver Foundation of Norwalk, and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation are among the Dalio Foundation's grantees. On a larger scale, the Robin Hood Foundation has received some $20 million, and Grameen America, which helps economically disadvantaged people pursue financial stability, has received large sums. They've also made numerous donations to libraries in New York and Connecticut, though the gift amounts are usually $10,000 or $15,000 annually.
When it comes to the arts, Barbara Dalio used to be on the board of the Bruce Museum in Connecticut, which received foundation funding. Less frequently, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, MOMA, the Met, and others have received donations.
GLOBAL: The Dalios' son Matt founded the China Care Foundation when he was just 16. The organization, which provides assistance to Chinese orphans, has received somewhere in the range of $5 million from the Dalio Foundation, though China Care lists its total support at $13 million according to its latest financials, most of which we assume came from the Dalio family.
OTHER ISSUES: Dalio is the founder of JustGive, a foundation that puts potential donors and almost 2 million charities in contact with one another. Dalio also gave $10 million to Volcker Alliance in 2013, whose mission is to "rekindle intellectual, practical, and academic interest in the implementation of policy and serve as a catalyst for sustained government improvement." Volcker Alliance was launched in 2013 by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker, who has given Dalio and Bridgewater high praise.
LOOKING FORWARD: As a hedge fund guy, Dalio knows how to diversify. Even as a philanthropist, he has spun off funds to other decision makers, such as the National Philanthropic Trust, to which he gave $2 million in 2010 and more recently gave $25 million. And as a serious meditation advocate, he has given to different stripes of the practice. So it is unlikely that Dalio will leave everything, or even almost everything, to one cause or institution. This is good news for prospective donees.
It wouldn't be surprising if Matt started to oversee larger parts of the Dalios' philanthropy, or expanded his China Care model to other regions or countries, or if the Dalios began taking a greater interest in U.S. education reform, or global education. Whatever he does, however, we expect Ray Dalio to continue unloading even more significant chunks of his fortune in the coming years.
Janine Racanelli, Executive Director, Dalio Family Foundation, 1 Glendinning Place, Westport, Ct, 06880, 203-291-5000