Winding Down the Atlantic Philanthropies: The First Eight Years: 2001-2009

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


The Atlantic Philanthropies is by all accounts the largest endowed institution in history deliberately to spend itself out of existence. The decision was taken in large part because of the desire of Atlantic’s founder, Charles F. Feeney, to witness the social benefits of his enormous donation—nearly all of his personal fortune—during his lifetime.
Yet the decision to spend down such a great fortune in such a short time, remarkable as that is, was just the first act in a much longer drama that is only now playing out. All of the questions that followed that seminal decision—spend how? spend on what? organize how? evaluate what?—present new layers of complexity and an assortment of fine-grained operational challenges that are uncommon, or at least take very different forms, in foundations that operate in perpetuity. How Atlantic confronts and resolves those questions is the subject of a series of annual reports that begins with this submission.



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