Dear Friends and Colleagues of the Atlantic
Chuck Feeney signed the dissolution papers
for the Atlantic Foundation,
concluding 38 years of global philanthropic work.
Many of you have been an integral part of that work and the
communities associated with that work. I want to recognize this
moment with gratitude for your contributions to advance our
shared values and aspirations.
Concluding 38 Years of Giving While Living
In 1982, Chuck, with support from his family and advisers,
established the Atlantic Foundation, which would later become
known as the Atlantic Philanthropies. That year, the
Foundation, acting anonymously as it would for the next 15
years, made its first grant of $7 million to establish the
Cornell Tradition Fellows. It was a big bet in its time, a bet
on young people with limited financial resources and a
dedication to serving others.
In 1984, Chuck and his family irrevocably contributed the entire
Feeney interest in the businesses he launched to the Atlantic
As a Bermuda foundation, Chuck and Atlantic’s business
colleagues continued to grow its extensive international
subsidiary businesses for charitable purposes while maintaining
the family’s privacy
In 1996, as major businesses were sold, grantmaking increased
and anonymity became both a practical and ethical challenge,
Chuck was (voluntarily) unmasked by the New
His biographer and his subsequent chronicler at Forbes titled
him, respectively, “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t” and “the James
Bond of Philanthropy.” He became an inspiration for the Giving
In 2002, Chuck and the leadership of the Atlantic Foundation,
made the express decision to invest the foundation’s entire
endowment and close our doors by the end of 2020.
Over 38 years, in more than 25 countries, with the passionate
efforts of directors and over 300 staff in seven countries, the
Atlantic Philanthropies group dedicated itself and over $8
billion in more than 6,500 grants to support the people and
organizations that would make a difference in the lives of
Chuck is no longer anonymous. But many of you, our grantees and
Atlantic’s staff, who advanced these efforts have labored in
anonymity or with little public recognition. Chuck would say
they are the heroes.
Chuck wanted wealth to be deployed soon, to make a difference
soon, to encourage others to commit their wealth to help others
Almost ten years ago, Chuck wrote to Bill Gates:
“I also want now to add my own personal challenge and
encouragement for Giving Pledge donors to fully engage in
sustained philanthropic efforts during their lifetimes. I cannot
think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of
wealth than to give while one is living—to personally devote
oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.
More importantly, today’s needs are so great and varied that
intelligent philanthropic support and positive interventions can
have greater value and impact today than if they are delayed
when the needs are greater.
I urge those who are taking up the Giving Pledge example to
invest substantially in philanthropic causes soon and not
postpone their giving or personal engagement.”
Shortly after launching the Giving Pledge, Warren Buffet said
“Chuck has set an example . . . .
[He] is my hero and Bill Gates’ hero. He should be everybody’s
In writing about the venture’s financial trajectory, Steve
Bertoni, Forbes magazine’s
chronicler of Chuck’s work, coined the term for Atlantic’s
is the hero.”
The Need is Now. Why Wait?
Following Chuck’s lead and Giving
While Living philosophy,
we have sought to make a lasting impact but with a sense of
urgency driven by a spend-to-impact rather than spend-to-budget
approach. Why wait to address critical needs in any arena –
health, social cohesion, the environment, aging populations,
early childhood development, education, knowledge and
innovation, democracy, human rights? Do we need to wait for the
next pandemic to strengthen immunology or public health data,
policies and systems? Do we need to delay investments in
effective environmental policies, technologies and practices
until future climate disasters? Should we wait for the next
social upheavals before addressing longstanding structural
inequities and racial, gender
and socio-economic disparities?
‘It Always Comes Down to People’
We have come to the end of Atlantic’s life – to zero – as Chuck
It is not the end of the efforts and aspirations to improve the
lives of others. Atlantic’s grantees, of which there are over
2,500, together with our funding partners and the people who led
and populated their respective efforts, have their own legacies
and ripples, even waves, of continuing influence
We have concluded our grantmaking by supporting a global
community of Atlantic
the current and next generations of leaders dedicated to
accelerating fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies.
It is our final big bet, a more than $740 million investment
to advance the quest for our aspirations beyond the foundation’s
“In the end,” as Chuck has said, echoing his first big
bet in the Cornell Tradition, “it always comes down to people.”
The Atlantic Fellows are making big plans; aiming high in hope
and work. We have no doubt that they, like so many of our
“are going to do things that would stagger us.”
It has been an unparalleled privilege for all of us associated
with Chuck and Atlantic to have participated in this endeavor.
We have had the opportunity to work with and guide financial and
other support to the many exceptionally skilled and dedicated
people who have selflessly strived for and achieved improvements
in the human condition. We have had the privilege of holding
fascinating jobs with wonderful colleagues.
‘We Are Who We Are Because of Others’
We ask that you celebrate and support what our grantee
colleagues have achieved and are working to achieve. Celebrate
and pursue the possibilities to improve things as they are.
Recognize the power and duty of privilege to respond
intelligently, with empathy and with some sense of urgency to
the myriad of human needs. Take note that change for the better
is not only possible, it is our shared human imperative.
The effort is worthy and deeply satisfying and besides, as Chuck
says, “Giving while living is more fun than giving while
Atlantic’s grantees, their work and our experience and insights
can be further explored on the Atlantic
which will remain active until at least 2025, and in our
archives at Cornell University.
We hope you might find something there of interest and value and
application in your work.
We are who we are because of others.
On behalf of Chuck Feeney and the team at Atlantic
thank you for your work and support and for accompanying us
on this journey.
Investing in a Better Future for All
The Atlantic Philanthropies were founded by entrepreneur Chuck
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
grant commitments at the end of 2016. Over 38 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.
Atlantic Philanthropy Overview