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Atlantic Philanthropies

Resource type: News

The Royal Gazette |

By Kristin White For many years there has been a Secret Santa of sorts for our local nonprofits.When their good works caught the eye of this secret benefactor, they would be blessed with financial grants upwards of one hundred thousand dollars.In the nonprofit community, this could mean expanded programmes, needed staff increases, or strategic research and development.It would mean renewed enthusiasm, passion and energy for working towards a better Bermuda. Since 1982, Atlantic Philanthropies has been a major donor to nonprofits in seven different countries, including Bermuda.Founded by Charles F. Feeney, the founder of Duty Free Shoppers, Atlantic Philanthropies had initially made all grants anonymously in the areas of higher education, volunteerism and philanthropy.In fact, Atlantic Philanthropies was the founding funder of the Centre on Philanthropy in 1991. In the past few years, the organisation had a strategic organizational shift, where they decided to end the anonymity, and share information about Atlantic’s grantmaking, and the impact they are having. They also identified a mission – to bring about lasting changes in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people and expanded upon their focus areas. Rahsaan Harris, Atlantic Philanthropies’ Programme Executive for Bermuda explains, Atlantic has two programme areas in Bermuda, where we focus on Aging and Disadvantaged Children & Youth.Aging is a critical piece, because the older adult population in Bermuda is growing, so much so that we will see a huge demographic shift.It’s estimated that by the year 2025, the older adult population will more than double to 16,500.We are committed to finding ways to make sure older adults are able to live their lives to the fullest – healthy and happy. Mr. Harris continues, In terms of our youth focus youth are the future.And we believe that all children deserve the opportunity to fulfill their dreams regardless of their economic circumstances.There are always chances to give youth better access to opportunities that will help them to live better lives.We serve as a conduit for that. Atlantic Philanthropies’ grantmaking policies are designed to ensure funding is going to organisations that will make the most of it.They choose organisations whose programmes have had proven success.Indeed most of the nonprofits that have been recipients of Atlantic’s grants have been in existence for 5 years or more; including The Family Centre, AGE Concern, Open Airways, and the Bermuda Sloop Foundation. Our goal is ‘grantmaking for impact’, so our policies ensure funds and resources are directed to people that want to help.We invest in leaders, and in models that seek to change public perception.Additionally, we look to make grants that can be leveraged to attract additional funding. The projects we invest in must meet our strategic objectives and the organisations must have the technical expertise and infrastructure to implement their plan. Atlantic’s proactive approach to grantmaking means that its staff identifies potential grantees, and the foundation does not accept proposals.Atlantic’s staff is focused achieving specific programme goals, and its programme executives research grant opportunities and work with people ‘on the ground’ to obtain all the information needed.Additionally, they work with groups, including the ACE Foundation and the Bank of Bermuda Foundation, to identify nonprofits that are already on the local giving community’s radar.These strategies are all designed to maximize Atlantic’s impact. Atlantic’s aim is to complete grantmaking by 2016 and ‘spend down’ thefoundation’s entire $3.9 billion endowment by 2020, and thus these strategies are all the more necessary.Mr. Harris explains, We want to ensure that we are building capacity, and strengthening these organisations so they can be sustainable beyond the life of The Atlantic Philanthropies.There is so much opportunity in Bermuda the international trend towards social entrepreneurship is getting a start there, and island’s small size lends itself to more cross-programme investments and collaboration.Bermuda’s nonprofit community can actually serve as a model for other jurisdictions.

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Chuck Feeney