The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is one of the largest independent foundations in the U.S. With $6.3 billion in total assets as of Dec, 31, 2013, the MacArthur Foundation had authorized more than $228.4 million in grants with operations in the U.S. and more than 50 countries worldwide in 2013 alone. Since 1978, the Foundation has made grants totaling an astounding $5 billion.
The Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions that are committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. The foundation also “selects the MacArthur Fellows, works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.”
Founders and quiet philanthropists John D. (1897-1978) and wife, Catherine T. (1909-1981) MacArthur spent the majority their lives in Chicago and Palm Beach. Both of the MacArthur’s were extremely successful in their business and philanthropic endeavors. John MacArthur developed and owned Bankers Life and Casualty Company among other businesses and considerable amounts of property in Florida and New York. Catherine MacArthur held positions in many of his companies and served as the director of the Foundation.
The first decade of the Foundation posed many challenges. There were many debates over assets, good value responsibility, grant-making strategies, staff assembly and relationship establishment. The second decade saw a rapid expansion and held a lot of experimentation. Assets grew and John MacArthur’s real estate holdings were liquidated to fund new projects and ventures— mostly geared towards the Chicago area. During the third decade, the Foundation made their values clear, established a mission: committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world, as well as deepening many other investments and holding many successes.
MacArthur’s Four Programs
Through the support it provides, the Foundation makes grants and loans through four programs. According to their website, “The Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media.”
The first of the programs focuses on international issues including human rights, international peace, justice, security, conservation, sustainable development, and many more. MacArthur grantees work in more than 60 countries and have offices in India, Mexico, Nigeria and Russia.
The second program addresses issues inside of U.S. borders including community and economic development, housing, juvenile justice reform, education and many more. This program also focuses a great deal on policy research.
MacArthur’s third program, Media, Culture, and Special Initiative, supports public interest journalism, including analytical and investigative news reporting and documentary films. Through this program, the Foundation awards grants to more than 300 theaters, museums, and music organizations in Chicago. The program also works to strengthen American democracy through “discovery grants” in an effort to advance innovative approaches to important social problems in various fields.
The final program, The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted $625,000 fellowships to talented individuals who have displayed an immense amount of originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.
2015 Recipients Announced
Recently, nine nonprofit organizations received the MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions grants for 2015. The grants ranged from $350,000 to $1 million. These awards have been given out since 2006 and are aimed at organizations that previously received help from the MacArthur Foundation. An interesting fact about this great organization is that the MacArthur Foundation does not seek or accept nominations for the awards.
– Eastin Shipman