Case Study of the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, 1968 to 2009

Aspen Institute



Case Study Sector


After 41 years of operation, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust officially closed its doors on June 30, 2009. While granting the trustees discretion to terminate the Trust whenever they deemed it appropriate, Mrs. Cary’s will limited the life of the Trust to a maximum of 50 years. The trustees decided in 1997 that the Cary Trust would spend down over the next 12 years and close in 2009. Given the Trust’s practice of providing long-term operational funding to its grantees, developing a plan for an orderly closing—one that would strengthen, rather than weaken, its beneficiaries—was a priority of the trustees. Reflecting the donor’s interests, the Cary Trust focused its grantmaking on music in New York City and on the conservation of natural resources during its lifetime and distributed a total of $334,245,969, including $228,372,789 in annual grants and $105,873,180 in terminal grants.
This case study is one of five presented in Time Is of the Essence: Foundations and the Policies of Limited Life and Endowment Spend-Down: the Julius Rosenwald Fund, 1917 to 1948; the General Education Board, 1903 to 1961; the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust; the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust; and the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation.



  • Strategy


  • Northern America

Blog Posts


Jan 27

JOIN US Wednesday, January 27th at 4:30 PM, on Zoom, for a VIRTUAL discussion on reinventing local journalism with philanthropic and civic capital. Registration is Required