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Atlantic Philanthropies

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Atlantic Philanthropies

The Atlantic Philanthropies
Founded 1982
Founder Charles "Chuck" Feeney
Focus Ageing, youth, human rights, poverty and population health
Method Grants, Funding
Key people Chris Oechsli, Martin O'Brien (humanitarian)
Endowment €1.83 billion[1]

The Atlantic Philanthropies (AP) is a private foundation created in 1982 by US businessman Charles F. "Chuck" Feeney. The Atlantic Philanthropies' grant-making supports health and social projects in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam. It is among the largest foreign charitable donors in each of the countries in which it operates,[2] and is the single largest funder of ageing and of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.[3][4][5] Since 2007, Atlantic Philanthropies has been focused increasingly on social justice grant-making.[6]

AP has made grants totaling more than $5 billion since 1982 and plans to spend its remaining $4 billion endowment by 2016.[7] The President and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies is Christopher Oechsli.[8] He was appointed in 2011, succeeding Gara LaMarche. Humanitarian Martin O'Brien was appointed Senior Vice President of Programmes shortly thereafter.

Atlantic's most recent grantmaking statistics are from 2011.[9] They will cease giving grants by 2016, and will cease to operate by 2020. [10]


The American businessman Charles "Chuck" Feeney established The Atlantic Philanthropies in Bermuda in 1982. Born in 1931 to an Irish-American family from New Jersey, following service with the USAF (1948–1952), Feeney went on to study hotel management at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. (In later life, Feeney anonymously donated $600 million [11] to his alma mater.)

Feeney made his fortune in the duty-free business, co-founding Duty Free Shoppers (DFS). Based at ports and airports, DFS rode the post-World War II boom in tourism to became the largest retailer of luxury goods in the world, selling cigarettes, alcohol, perfumes and other luxury items.Feeney himself is noted for his personal modesty and frugal lifestyle. [12] By the time Forbes magazine listed Feeney as the world's 23rd richest man in 1988, he had already managed to secretly donate his entire fortune. Incorporated in Bermuda, his Atlantic Philanthropies foundation had donated up to $4 billion to charitable causes and he was personally worth no more than $5 million at that time.[13] Feeney was the biggest charitable donor in American history up to that point, all the while maintaining his anonymity.[14]

Feeney is the subject of a 2007 biography, The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune by Conor O'Clery, [published by PublicAffairs]. Feeney is also the subject of an hour-long TV documentary on Irish television broadcast in May 2009 called Secret Billionaire: The Chuck Feeney Story. (New Decade, 2009) [15] in which he discusses his rise from modest beginnings to billionaire businessman and the strategy for giving his fortune away while still alive.

In 2011, Feeney signed "The Giving Pledge," a campaign to encourage the wealthiest people in the United States to make a commitment to give most of their money to philanthropic causes.[16]

"Giving While Living"

Feeney started the Atlantic Philanthropies at age 53 because he believes in a "giving while living" philosophy, which is heavily influenced by Andrew Carnegie’s essay, "Wealth". In his essay, Carnegie expresses his belief that wealthy people should put their fortune to good use.

Where once donations were made in secret, AP has moved to a transparent communications model in the interests of influencing other wealthy individuals to use some of their enormous wealth to support philanthropy and worthwhile causes of their choosing during their lifetimes. [17] A complete database of AP's grants is available from its website.[18]

A report explaining the foundation's "Giving While Living" approach to philanthropy was issued by the foundation in 2010. It profiles philanthropists who give in this manner and the impact of their grant-making.


The Atlantic Philanthropies actively seeks out suitable organizations to sponsor. Previously, the secrecy of the process prevented mass applications. Atlantic now accepts proposals by invitation.[19] For the complete policy, see the organization's funding policy.[20]


AP concentrates its donations in four strategic programme areas: Ageing,[21] Children & Youth [22] Population Health[23] and Reconciliation & Human Rights[24]

As of 2007, The Atlantic Philanthropies had distributed $2 billion to recipients in the US, over $1 billion to Ireland and more than $200 million each to Australia and Vietnam. Atlantic has completed a number of major capital projects worldwide, largely medical and educational facilities. As of 2011, Atlantic has $2.5 billion remaining to disburse.[25]

Examples of AP grant-making


In Australia, AP has invested up to $250m and is one of the key benefactors to the University of Queensland, funding a project to build the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). AP also supported the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), Queensland Brain Institute as well as the refurbished James and Mary Emelia Mayne Centre housing the University of Queensland art collection.[26]

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, AP has controversially supported the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in its work to develop and promote proposals for a Bill of Rights for the region. It has also funded a coalition of civil society groups, the Bill of Rights Consortium. It funded Big Telly, the longest established professional theatre company in Northern Ireland, to produce a theatre program for seniors called "Spring Chickens." The initiative led to performances across Northern Ireland, and was scripted and produced by older people.[27]

Republic of Ireland

AP has invested over $1 billion in third-level education on the island of Ireland, funding research facilities at the University of Limerick and Dublin City University as well as a library and sports facility at Trinity College Dublin.[28] AP's grants to Irish education are credited with helping initiate a boom in the Irish economy in the 1990s.[29]

AP has indicated that it will grant €80 million in Ireland in 2009 to children, elderly and human rights projects.[30] Atlantic recently awarded a €1.2 million grant to Barnados, one of Ireland's best-known children charities.[31]

The goals of its Reconciliation & Human Rights Programme in the Republic of Ireland are to strengthen the central human rights infrastructure and to improve access to justice and services for immigrants, people with disabilities and the LGBTI community. One Atlantic grantee, GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) recently led a campaign to win civil partnership for gays and lesbians in the Republic of Ireland.[32]

For a comprehensive list of past grants by The Atlantic Philanthropies in Ireland see the - list of AP grants (2002)Irish Times. More about Atlantic's current funding in the Republic of Ireland is detailed here.[33]

South Africa

Atlantic has invested extensively in South Africa, largely in post-apartheid healing a reconciliation. They have a line of funding dedicated to gay rights in South Africa, which includes an lgbt film festival and a recent report, A Meeting of Queer Minds.

Atlantic most recently provided a $17m grant, matched by the South Africa Department of Education, for construction of a Life Sciences facility at the University of the Western Cape. The facility houses a National Bioinformatics Institute, a Water Research Programme, South Africa’s only Male Fertility Research unit and several university departments.[34]

United States

In March 2009, AP pledged $125 million to the University of California, San Francisco to fund a state-of-the-art medical center at the Mission Bay campus. The single largest grant The Atlantic Philanthropies has ever given, it brings the total amount of support to UCSF to $270 million.[35] The project broke ground in October, 2010.[36]

In 2008-10 AP pledged over $25 million to Health Care for America Now (HCAN) to support their efforts to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.[37]


Partnering with the East Meets West Foundation (EMW), The Atlantic Philanthropies is funding the Hue Ophthalmology and Training Center, a $4 million addition to Hue Central Hospital. Due for completion by the end of 2009, the project aims to significantly upgrade treatment of severe eye illnesses.[38] Through another grant, Hue Central Hospital recently was home to the first ever heart transplant successfully completed by Vietnamese doctors.[39]

This is just one of a number of health projects AP has funded in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has publicly thanked The Atlantic Philanthropies for helping to improve the country's health system.[40]

External links

  • Atlantic Philanthropies
  • ABC Radio National's Background Briefing - "Chuck Feeney: Giving While Living - Summer Series", January 4, 2003
  • ABC News - "Reclusive philanthropist urges the rich to give", August 26, 2007
  • Center for Effective Philanthropy "Giving While Living Requires Inspiration and Good Strategy'' - June, 2010


  1. ^
  2. ^ Dallas Business Journal Dec 2007
  3. ^ Anft, Michael (2005-11-24). "Getting on Board With Boomers - Regeneration - The Chronicle of Philanthropy- Connecting the nonprofit world with news, jobs, and ideas". Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  4. ^ "Gara LaMarche - Atlantic Philanthropies". 2008-12-11. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  5. ^ Preston, Caroline (2010-04-25). "Bring Odd Bedfellows Together to Promote Social Change, Foundations Urged - Conference Notebook - The Chronicle of Philanthropy- Connecting the nonprofit world with news, jobs, and ideas". Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  6. ^ "The Strengthening of Atlantic’s Social Justice Mission: What It Means for Our Funding". Atlantic Philanthropies. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  7. ^ Winding Down The Atlantic Philanthropies: 2009-2010: Beginning the Endgame," by Tony Proscio | Philanthropy Central""". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Author Conor O'Clery on Cornell's biggest benefactor (video)
  12. ^ LA Times - Chuck Feeney feature
  13. ^ Interview on CBS with Cynthia Bowers
  14. ^ NY Daily News - Talk Cheap for Rich Guy
  15. ^ New Decade home
  16. ^ Strom, Stephanie (2011-02-22). "Long After Giving His Money Away, a Donor Takes the Pledge". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ Interview with Eamon Dunphy on RTE radio
  18. ^ AP home
  19. ^ "Funding Policy". Atlantic Philanthropies. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  20. ^ "Funding Policy". Atlantic Philanthropies. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  21. ^ AP home - Ageing,
  22. ^ AP home - Youth
  23. ^ AP home - Health
  24. ^ AP home - Rights
  25. ^
  26. ^ QU IMB brochure downloadable PDF
  27. ^ "Storytelling as Advocacy: Whose story is it?". 2010-06-30. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  28. ^ April 2008The Examiner
  29. ^ CBS interview (video)
  30. ^ Sunday Tribune May 3 2009
  31. ^ Deegan, Gordon (2011-03-01). "Barnardos raises €8.5m funding - The Irish Times - Tue, Mar 01, 2011". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  32. ^ "Random Musings, Both Factual and Otherwise". Nerin Online. 2011-02-13. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  33. ^ "Republic of Ireland". Atlantic Philanthropies. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  34. ^ "University of the Western Cape". Atlantic Philanthropies. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  35. ^ Synapse - the UCSF Student Newspaper
  36. ^ San Francisco Business Times - by Ron Leuty (2010-10-26). "UCSF starts $1.5B hospital complex | San Francisco Business Times". Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  37. ^ "A Big Bet on Advocacy Helps to Make History on Health Care". Atlantic Philanthropies. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  38. ^ Thanh Nien Daily report
  39. ^ "Social Issues". Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  40. ^ Thanh Nien Daily report
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