The Atlantic Philanthropies were founded by entrepreneur Chuck Feeney, who decided in 1982 to devote his wealth to the service of humanity. A champion of Giving While Living, Feeney has long maintained that people of wealth should use it to better the world during their lifetimes. That belief, which has been a driving influence in our work, led our trustees to decide in 2002 to limit Atlantic’s life to a fixed term.
Atlantic, which will close its doors in 2020, made its final commitments at the end of 2016. Over 35 years, we invested over $8 billion in promising programs and people and in places where we saw the chance to create opportunity and promote greater fairness and equity for all. Because we believe that it’s imperative to address deeply rooted problems sooner than later, many of our grants were “big bets” designed to bring lasting improvements to people’s lives.
The Atlantic Philanthropies Timeline
Chuck Feeney establishes Atlantic Philanthropies in Bermuda
Foundation operates anonymously for its first 15 years due to Feeney’s desire for flexibility and a low profile; Makes first grant in US to Cornell.
Feeney transfers virtually all of his wealth to Atlantic
This unprecedented act demonstrates his philosophy of Giving While Living.
Opens office in the Republic of Ireland
Builds on Feeney’s business interests in the country and sense that opportunities abounded to help Ireland develop a better future.
Begins grantmaking in Northern Ireland
Driven by Feeney’s desire to see peace and economic growth in the region within his lifetime.
Makes first grant in South Africa
Sees opportunity to help country move towards democracy post-apartheid.
Atlantic begins communicating about Giving While Living as part of its change strategy.
Makes first biotechology research grant in Australia
Invests in educational and research facilities that over time result in hundreds of medical breakthroughs.
Begins grantmaking in Viet Nam
Evolves into a 14-year program to help improve higher education and population health, including reinvigorating Viet Nam’s system of primary care clinics.
Becomes a limited life foundation
Atlantic commits to invest entire endowment in Feeney’s lifetime.
The Atlantic Charitable Trust makes first grants in Cuba
Develops a 13-year program to strengthen and share Cuba’s successful model for health care.
Makes its largest grant ever: $350 million
Kickstarts the first stage of Cornell NYC Tech campus, which will be a magnet for world-class researchers, entrepreneurs and business incubators.
Begins to capture and share lessons learned
Goal is to provide guidance and inspiration to current and future philanthropists.
Launches Atlantic Fellows
Launches 1st of 7 global Atlantic Fellows programs to empower communities of emerging leaders to advance fairer, healthier, more inclusive societies.
Concludes all grantmaking
Makes final grant allocations focused on global opportunity, leverage and the Atlantic Fellows program. Shifts to dissemination and ongoing monitoring.
Concludes all operations
Here's a quick summary of our grantmaking history.
Billion in grants around the world.
Years of grantmaking; 16 as a limited life foundation.
Made final grant allocations. Close in 2020.
Giving while Living
When asked long ago for the inspiration of his “Giving While Living” philosophy, our founder Chuck Feeney said:
“I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes today.”
Chuck Feeney felt a connection to each of the eight regions where Atlantic has made major investments over the years. In all of these places, he saw opportunity to make a lasting difference within his lifetime.
Today’s Investments Pay Big Dividends for Many Tomorrows
Problems don’t wait for fixes. The longer action is delayed, the more intractable these challenges can become. Time after time again, we have demonstrated the benefit of taking steps to solve intractable problems before they became entrenched, and more expansive and expensive.
To paraphrase the poet Robert Frost, Atlantic still has some miles to go before we sleep. Throughout this website, you’ll find our story, the impact of our grantees and the insights we’re gaining along the way.