Frequently Asked Questions

What is the MacArthur Foundation?

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is one of the largest private philanthropies based in the United States. The Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

Who were John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur?

John Donald MacArthur (1897-1978) was one of the three wealthiest men in America at the time of his death, and was sole owner of the nation's largest privately held insurance company, Bankers Life and Casualty Company of Chicago. He also owned extensive property and several businesses in Florida and New York City. His wife Catherine Teresa MacArthur (1909-1981) was John's partner in life and business. She held positions in many of his companies and served as a director of the Foundation. Learn more about John and Catherine MacArthur

Are they related to General Douglas MacArthur?

No, there is no relation between General Douglas MacArthur and John D. MacArthur.

Why did they decide to start a foundation?

The MacArthurs’ longtime friend and attorney William T. Kirby convinced John that a foundation would allow his money to go to good use long after he was gone. On October 18, 1970, the documents for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation were completed. When John died of cancer on January 6, 1978, the Foundation assumed his assets, estimated at $1 billion. In less than a year, the board began to award grants.

What does a foundation do?

In the United States, private foundations are charitable organizations that provide grants to organizations or individuals, helping those in need or working to solve social problems. Foundations can operate locally, nationally, or internationally and enjoy considerable flexibility in choosing where to work and what to support. Private foundations act independently of any private business and of the United States government; they receive no government support. Many private foundations, like MacArthur, have endowments that are the sole source of funds for the grants they make.

What is a grant?

A grant is an award of financial support. It can be provided for a specific project or general operations. It can be awarded to an individual or to an organization. Grants must serve charitable purposes.

How does the MacArthur Foundation decide which grants to award?

MacArthur’s grantmaking aims to address complex societal challenges in a strategic way. Drawing on the expertise of our staff and experts in the field, the Foundation formulates specific strategies that guide decisions about how and where our funding can have significant impact. These strategies are reviewed and adjusted over time.

What does MacArthur support?

MacArthur supports people and organizations working for change on a variety of complex societal challenges. Our grants are generally long-term, strategic investments, focused on building evidence about what works and finding solutions to often intractable problems.

While some foundations work on a small number of issues, MacArthur is a multi-purpose foundation with grantmaking in fields that are often inter-related, from migration and conservation to housing and education. Learn more about our specific areas of grantmaking

Where does MacArthur make grants?

MacArthur has a global reach. We support organizations working in 50 countries and we maintain offices in India, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia.

Our U.S. grantmaking impacts nearly every state in the nation. MacArthur is also very active in Chicago, which is our headquarters and the city John and Catherine MacArthur called home.

What is the MacArthur Fellowship?

The MacArthur Fellowship is a five-year grant to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future. The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their creative activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements. There are no limits on age or area of activity. Learn more about the MacArthur Fellowship

Can I apply or nominate someone for a MacArthur Fellowship?

Individuals cannot apply for the MacArthur Fellowship and nominations are not accepted from the general public. Learn more about the MacArthur Fellowship

What does MacArthur not fund?

The Foundation does not support political activities or attempts to influence action on specific legislation. We do not provide scholarships or tuition assistance for undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate studies; nor do we support annual fundraising drives, institutional benefits, honorary functions, or similar projects.

Does the MacArthur Foundation make grants to individuals?

Only the MacArthur Fellows Program provides grants to individuals and applications are not accepted.

How can my organization apply for MacArthur funding?

Many areas of MacArthur grantmaking do not accept unsolicited proposals. We encourage you to read carefully our grantmaking guidelines to assess whether you might be eligible for MacArthur support before you apply.

How much money do you award in grants?

In 2012, the Foundation paid out $215.2 million in grants and program-related investments to organizations and individuals in the United States and around the world. Actual cash paid out varies from year to year depending on payment schedules of larger grants. Read our financial overview

How does MacArthur raise the funds it needs to make grants?

The Foundation draws on the endowment left by John and Catherine MacArthur to support its charitable work. We invest the endowment and give away a portion of it each year.

Does MacArthur accept donations?

The Foundation does not solicit contributions to the Foundation. We hope that those interested in making contributions will support our grantees or other public charities in the fields in which we work.

In some circumstances, however, we will accept donations. This could include, for example, a case where a donor wishes to make a substantial donation because the programs of the Foundation meet directly the interests of the donor and the donor prefers we exercise oversight over the use of the funds.

Acceptance of proposed donations and the terms will be determined based on the circumstances of each case. Persons interested in making substantial donations should contact Joshua J. Mintz, Vice President and General Counsel of the Foundation, by e-mail using the link above or by telephone at (312) 920-6250.

Does MacArthur receive government funding?

No. Private foundations like MacArthur act independently of any private business and of the United States government; they receive no government support. Many private foundations, including MacArthur, have endowments that are the sole source of funds for the grants they make.

What is the size of MacArthur’s endowment?

As of December 31, 2011, MacArthur's assets totaled $5.7 billion. Read our investment summary

Where is the Foundation located?

Chicago is MacArthur’s headquarters and our home. Our offices are in the historic Marquette Building, located at 140 S. Dearborn Street. Completed in 1895, the Marquette Building is a Chicago Landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Learn more about the historic Marquette Building.

MacArthur also has offices located in India, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia. Access our contact information

How can I get a job at MacArthur?

We post our open positions online. We encourage applicants to apply for positions linked to specific job openings listed on our website, but will also accept unsolicited applications by mail for possible future openings. (Unsolicited applications will be retained by the Foundation for one year.) Due to the number of applications received, we are unable to respond to phone inquiries regarding the status of our recruiting.