When I began as President of the MacArthur Foundation in July, I was pleased to find a strong staff and an inspiring record of grantmaking. I have been impressed every day since by the dedication, creativity, and impact of our grantees in Chicago, across the United States, and around the world. I have learned much from our staff and the organizations we support.
I met with arts and culture leaders in Chicago to hear about their creative endeavors and the challenges they face in this economic climate. I attended the Global Forum on Migration, where I learned about the impact of the recession on human mobility and development. I visited conservation groups seeking to protect Madagascar’s unique plant and animal life. I met people working to preserve affordable rental housing and those committed to a fair and rational juvenile justice system. I also had the privilege of telling some extraordinary individuals in diverse fields that they had been selected as MacArthur Fellows in recognition of their exceptional creativity and promise to do even more. I have enjoyed meeting many grantees already and look forward to connecting with many more to learn about their work.
As new presidents do, I plan to work closely with our staff and Board to look at our strategic approach to grantmaking and our areas of work to ensure that we are as effective and impactful as possible. We will also consider new ideas, continuing MacArthur’s tradition of making a difference.
Like every institution, MacArthur has not been insulated from the nation’s economic challenges. Following five strong years, our endowment fell 27 percent in 2008, similar to the performance of other foundations, universities, and large nonprofits. Including our spending for grants, MacArthur’s endowment is down from approximately $7 billion to $5 billion. Recognizing the importance of our philanthropy, especially in difficult economic times, we held our grantmaking budget steady at about $260 million per year in 2008 and 2009.
Although our endowment grew modestly in 2009, our grantmaking budget in 2010 will have to be somewhat less than the last two years, $230 million. We are making this adjustment without substantive impact on the programs we support, and, of course, we will honor all of our grant commitments. As always, we will continue to evaluate economic conditions throughout the year.
My MacArthur colleagues and I wish you a happy and peaceful new year.