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French American Charitable Trust (1992–projected: 2016)

Total Assets[1]: $40 million endowment

Total Giving: $54 million[2]

Prominent Grants: Focused on California, the Southwest and the South. A small grant-making program was also established in France. Prominent grants include $100,000 annually to Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE).

Reports: Giving More, Making Change: A Journey in Progressive Grant Making

Summary: The French American Charitable Trust (FACT) is a small family foundation that, during its 18 years of grant-making, took on the underfunded sector of community-led organizing and advocacy and made a difference in a small period of time. FACT was established in 1990 by Chuck Feeney, the co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers, and Danielle Feeney, his then wife, with a $40 million endowment to enable their five children to learn about philanthropy.

One of Feeney’s children, Diane Feeney, took over direction of the foundation. She was soon persuaded that one way to bring change was to help people who were directly affected by environmental toxins, low wages, and lack of opportunity develop the skills to speak up for themselves in an organized way. Once energized and empowered, those people could come together to curb the noxious power plants spewing fumes into their houses, fight for living wages, and persuade legislators to enact policies that would enable them to take sick days without fear of losing their jobs. As active community leaders and voters, they could also hold elected officials accountable. They could apply their skills and their community network to any issue, small or large, and join with other groups to work on a regional, state, and even national level. FACT’s staff developed a theory of how to bring about change that involved “funding strong and effective community-led organizations with a global perspective that prioritize leadership development, organizing and advocacy at the state, regional and national levels with the objective of developing public policies that address their needs.”

From its inception, FACT has strategically targeted its resources by choosing a small group of promising grantees, giving them general operating support over the long term, responding to specific needs with appropriate funding, and engaging other funders to support this work.

FACT leaves behind a group of strong, effective organizations that will continue to thrive. It has also launched RoadMAP, an ongoing version of its carefully crafted capacity building program, so that more groups can benefit from its wealth of expertise, and keep FACT’s mission alive.