The Atlantic Philanthropies

SOURCE:  Wikipedia, captured 2020-08-11

  • Founded: 1982
  • Founder: Chuck Feeney
  • Focus: Ageing, youth, human rights, poverty, progressive advocacy
  • Method: Grantmaking
  • Key people: Christopher Oechsli  |  Martin O'Brien
  • Endowment (2012): $1.4 billion
  • Website:

    The Atlantic Philanthropies is a private foundation created in 1982 by Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney. The Atlantic Philanthropies focuses its giving on health, social, and politically liberal public policy causes in Australia, Bermuda, Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam.

    The Atlantic Philanthropies is among the largest foreign charitable donors in each of the countries in which it operates, and is the single largest funder of programs that encourage the civic engagement of older people and of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. With the single largest advocacy grant ever made by a foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies committed $27 million to win passage of the Affordable Care Act in the United States. About half of the Atlantic Philanthropies' grants have been made in donations that allow lobbying.

    The Atlantic Philanthropies commenced a spend-down process in 2012, and its entire portfolio will be liquidated by the end of 2016. The Atlantic Philanthropies plans to fully shutter its doors in 2020.


    Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney established the Atlantic Philanthropies in Bermuda in 1982. The organization made its first grant of $7 million that same year to Cornell University.

    Feeney, who co-founded Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), transferred all of his assets and his entire 38.75% ownership stake in DFS to what became the Atlantic Philanthropies in 1984. For the first fifteen years of Atlantic's existence, donations were made anonymously, and organizations receiving grants were required to sign contracts agreeing to not reveal the source of their donations.

    Atlantic's charitable giving remained anonymous until 1997, when a business dispute Feeney was involved in forced him to disclose the funding for Atlantic.

    Since its founding in 1982, the Atlantic Philanthropies has given out about $7.5 billion. The Atlantic Philanthropies is a limited-life foundation which will close its doors in 2020.

    The President and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies is Christopher Oechsli. Oechsli was appointed in 2011, succeeding Gara LaMarche. Martin O'Brien was appointed Senior Vice President of Programmes shortly thereafter.


    Atlantic Philanthropies concentrates its donations in the areas of aging, children and youth, population and health, and reconciliation and human rights. As of 2013, the Atlantic Philanthropies had distributed $6.5 billion.


    In Australia, Atlantic Philanthropies has donated more than $AUD500 million, including $AUD250 million in Queensland. These donations have been directed toward the building or expansion of 20 research facilities in Australia.

    Northern Ireland

    In Northern Ireland, Atlantic Philanthropies 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. The Atlantic Philanthropies has also funded a coalition of civil society groups, the Bill of Rights Consortium.

    Republic of Ireland

    Atlantic Philanthropies 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. Atlantic Philanthropies grants in Ireland have been credited by some for stimulating the Irish economy in the 1990s.

    In 2009, Atlantic Philanthropies indicated that it would grant €80 million in Ireland in 2009 to children, elderly and human rights projects. In 2011, Atlantic Philanthropies awarded a €1.2 million grant to Barnardo's, one of Ireland's best-known children's charities.

    In 2004-2013, Atlantic Philanthropies provided $11.5m and political advice to the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network and three other Irish gay-rights groups. Prior to the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, Catholic commentator Breda O'Brien characterised this as "American money buying an Irish referendum."

    As of 2014, a total of $226 million in Atlantic grants have leveraged $1.3 billion of government money to the Irish university system.

    United States

    In March 2009, Atlantic Philanthropies pledged $125 million to the University of California, San Francisco to fund a medical center at the Mission Bay campus. At the time, it was the single largest grant the Atlantic Philanthropies had given. The project broke ground in October 2010.

    From 2008-2010, Atlantic Philanthropies donated $27 million to Health Care for America Now (HCAN) to support their efforts to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Atlantic Philanthropies was the single largest advocacy grant ever made by a foundation.

    In 2011, Atlantic Philanthropies gave $350 million to Cornell University to help build Cornell Tech, a new graduate school campus on New York City's Roosevelt Island. At the time, the gift was the largest donation in the university's history.

    Culminating grants

    In 2014, the Atlantic Philanthropies announced that it was making a series of major culminating grants, including one to foster peace and human rights in Northern Ireland, another to help fund a national dementia strategy in Ireland, and a third to expand the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based liberal think tank.

    Recipients of 2016 culminating grants include the London School of Economics, for support of the International Inequalities Institute, and the Rhodes Trust, to fund the newly established Atlantic Institute.

    The Atlantic Philanthropies is awarding UC San Francisco and Trinity College Dublin, $177 million to create the Global Brain Health Institute, a groundbreaking venture to stem the precipitous rise in dementia by training and connecting a new generation of leaders worldwide.

    Additional Reading

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