“I had one idea that never changed in my mind—that you should use your wealth to help people.” – Chuck Feeney
Chuck Feeney, our Founding Chairman, demonstrated his belief in Giving While Living when he gave the vast majority of his wealth to Atlantic in 1984, two years after establishing the foundation. He was deeply influenced by Andrew Carnegie’s famous essay, “Wealth.”
“I believe that people of substantial wealth potentially create problems for future generations unless they themselves accept responsibility to use their wealth during their lifetime to help worthwhile causes,” Mr. Feeney wrote to the Atlantic Board of Directors. In 2002, the Board agreed to make Atlantic a limited life foundation, complete active grantmaking by 2016, and shut the doors shortly thereafter.
We believe that if we address urgent issues now, like opportunities for children and youth or access to treatment for those with HIV/AIDS, they are much less likely to become larger, more entrenched and more expensive challenges later.
Atlantic hopes to inspire individuals at widely varying levels of wealth to embrace Giving While Living: To approach philanthropy as a calling to which they can, during their lifetimes, actively devote their funds, skills and time, and receive enormous satisfaction in the process.
Mr. Feeney became a signatory of the Giving Pledge in February 2011, even though he had transferred virtually all of his and his family's assets to Atlantic over 25 years earlier. He hoped to inspire the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes during their lives or after their death. In Australia, he helped to establish Giving While Living networks in Tasmania and New South Wales.
While we know that this form of giving isn’t for everyone, we are pleased that a growing number of philanthropists are embracing Giving While Living. A prominent example is Warren Buffett’s $31 billion commitment to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation since 2006, and Patrice Motsepe, South Africa’s only black billionaire, announced in 2013 that he is giving away over half of his wealth to address health and education issues in his country.
Several years ago, Mr. Feeney told The New York Times: “A lot of wealthy people, they don’t realize they have the alternatives of spending the money for good. If they knew it gives so much satisfaction, I wouldn’t have to persuade them.”