In 1982, Atlantic founder Chuck Feeney made Bermuda the official home of his new foundation. His choice had nothing to do with the island’s pink sand and rum—attractions that made it a popular destination for tourists. Instead, Bermuda offered Feeney the opportunity to operate subsidiary businesses and maximize the foundation’s endowment, while also pursuing philanthropy anonymously. His preference for anonymity was a combination of his humility and a desire to fly under the radar and be nimble.
To directly support the island and its people, Atlantic established a Bermuda grantmaking program. In 2008, it appointed a local program executive to oversee the work, and began making more grants with greater focus and purpose.
The Atlantic Philanthropies in Bermuda
This report tells the story of our work in Bermuda to strengthen nonprofit organizations that promote civil society, build capacity for advocacy and social change, and advance the practice and strategies of philanthropy.
Though often perceived as an affluent country, many who live in Bermuda struggle to make ends meet. Through its grantmaking, Atlantic supported groups working to address disparities in health, education, public safety and criminal justice.
Starting in 2006, Atlantic’s grants largely strengthened the ability of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations to advocate on behalf of young and older people and to address issues of equity, human rights and race relations.
As part of that work, Atlantic helped bring Bermuda’s nonprofit organizations together to build a more collaborative funding and service environment and promote their sustainability. Recipients included The Centre on Philanthropy, which helps strengthen and sustain the nonprofit sector; Family Centre, which provides support and counseling services for families in crisis; and Bermuda Sloop Foundation, which provides experiential educational programs to public school teens.
A Drive for Long Lasting Social Change
Atlantic’s grants also helped nascent activist groups, like Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB), create strategic plans and goals. With Atlantic funding, CURB secured office space, hired professional staff and became a registered charity.
Age Concern, another Atlantic grantee, was originally founded to support the elderly by providing them with basic services—like a call center. Age Concern broadened its goals to include improving public policy for seniors in Bermuda. In 2012, the government created a ministry focused on the needs of seniors in response to recommendations from an Age Concern task force. In 2013, the government asked the group to recommend a national aging policy.
Beyond fighting inequality and securing rights for the elderly, Atlantic supported Two Words and a Comma, a group founded to end sex discrimination on the very conservative island. Fueled by an Atlantic grant, the group launched a grassroots education campaign, which led to securing legislation that now outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Atlantic also recognized that many Bermudians could neither understand or interpret their legal rights nor to advocate for them. To help, Atlantic provided a grant to establish the Centre for Justice, which works to improve access to justice by educating Bermudians about civil and human rights, providing specialist legal advice where rights or civil liberties may have been violated, and intervening as a third party in court proceedings.
As part of its ongoing work to help build Bermuda’s nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, Atlantic convened the the Bermuda Civil Society Project (BCSP). To learn more about the registered charities operating on the island and to understand better what individual nonprofits were doing and identify overlapping services as well as unmet needs BSCP first mapped the field. Findings were published in the 2010 report, “The Analysis of Social Service Agencies.” Next, BCSP developed a tool to categorize the contributions of all Bermuda’s registered charities. The purpose was to collect data to determine who is doing what for whom and, ultimately, how successfully.
As a culminating grant, Atlantic in 2013 provided $6 million to jump-start the Bermuda Community Foundation (BCF). BCF aims to have $20 million under management and an annual grantmaking budget of $2.8 million by 2019. Its goal is to be an ongoing source of philanthropic and other support for Bermuda’s nonprofits that serve the most disadvantaged.
“Bermuda was the opening chapter in Atlantic’s history. Now, the Bermuda Community Foundation will crystallize our legacy by amplifying the role of philanthropy right here where our journey started.”
– Atlantic CEO Christopher G. Oechsli