Nonprofit Chronicles

Journalism about foundations, nonprofits and their impact

The people who run billion-dollar foundations like to talk about their grants. They pump out press releases, produce slick videos, post on social media, publish annual reports and compile searchable databases, all calling attention to the ways they give away money. But how do they invest their money? Many won’t say. Fewer than half of 15 of the biggest U.S. foundations, which …

Continue reading

Eighteen months ago, the people who manage the endowment at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation got some bad news: Investments they had made in funds managed by EnerVest, a Houston-based private equity firm that operates more than 33,000 oil and gas wells across the US, had plummeted in value to almost nothing. …

Continue reading

Who could object to efforts to bring clean, renewable energy to people without electricity? Donors and investors love social enterprises (D.Light, Greenlight Planet, BrightLife) and nonprofits (SolarAid, GivePower) that bring solar panels, lights or phone chargers to poor households in Africa and south Asia. Why, even President Obama, on a visit to Tanzania, played with …

Continue reading

Thousands of donors visited Charity Navigator in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, looking for charities to support. They got some help, but not enough–the Harvey page of the Charity Navigator website lists about 50 organizations, the Irma page another 25 or so. They include the American Kidney Fund, to help dialysis patients in …

Continue reading

America’s foundations spend many millions of dollars every year on investment advice. What do they get in return? Bubkes.* You read that right: Money that could be spent on charitable programs — to alleviate global poverty, help cure disease, improve education, support research or promote the arts —instead flows into the pockets of well-to-do investment advisors and asset …

Continue reading

I spent last weekend in Charleston, WV, with my daughter, her husband and my two grandsons. They’re doing well. The same can’t be said about the state where they live. Nearly one in five people living in WV fall below the poverty line, which is $23,834 for a family of four. The percentage of children living …

Continue reading

With a collective $800bn in assets under managements, America’s big foundations spend vast sums of money to buy investment advice. They’re getting little, if anything, of value in return. Their own investment offices, and the Wall Street banks, hedge funds, private equity firms and consultants they hire, when taken together, deliver investment returns that lag …

Continue reading