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Our Story

Investing in a Better Future for All

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 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 made its final grant commitments at the end of 2016 and closed its doors in 2020. Over 37 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

  1. 1982

    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.

  2. 1984

    Feeney transfers virtually all of his wealth to Atlantic

    This unprecedented act demonstrates his philosophy of Giving While Living.

  3. 1990

    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.

  4. 1991

    Begins grantmaking in Northern Ireland

    Driven by Feeney’s desire to see peace and economic growth in the region within his lifetime.

  5. 1991

    Makes first grant in South Africa

    Sees opportunity to help country move towards democracy post-apartheid.

  6. 1997

    Sheds anonymity

    Atlantic begins communicating about Giving While Living as part of its change strategy.

  7. 1998

    Makes first biotechology research grant in Australia

    Invests in educational and research facilities that over time result in hundreds of medical breakthroughs.

  8. 1999

    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.

  9. 2002

    Becomes a limited life foundation

    Atlantic commits to invest entire endowment in Feeney’s lifetime.

  10. 2002

    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.

  11. 2012

    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.

  12. 2012

    Begins to capture and share lessons learned

    Goal is to provide guidance and inspiration to current and future philanthropists.

  13. 2015

    Launches Atlantic Fellows

    Launches 1st of 7 global Atlantic Fellows programs to empower communities of emerging leaders to advance fairer, healthier, more inclusive societies.

  14. 2016

    Concludes all grantmaking

    Makes final grant allocations focused on global opportunity, leverage and the Atlantic Fellows program. Shifts to dissemination and ongoing monitoring.

  15. 2020

    Concludes all operations

Here's a quick summary of our grantmaking history.

$8+ Billion in grants around the world.

37 Years of grantmaking; 16 as a limited life foundation.

2016 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.”

Learn More About Giving while Living

The Reach of Our Giving

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.

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Different Programs. Common Purpose.

While our grantmaking has focused on outcomes unique to each program, our objectives have been to:

  1. Promote and enhance opportunities for people, especially in places where systemic barriers unfairly hold them back.
  2. Address the root causes of inequity rather than the symptoms.
  3. Challenge and change destructive and discriminatory practices and public narratives.

View Insights
From Our Work

There’s More to Our Story

Throughout this website, you’ll find our story, the impact of our grantees and the insights gained along the way.