Foundation FAQs

Answers to common questions.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including revitalizing local news, advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local criminal justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to our award programs MacArthur Fellows and 100&Change, the Foundation continues our historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy and to the strength and vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago.

MacArthur is one of the nation's largest independent foundations. Since our founding in 1978, we have supported organizations that work in 117 countries. In addition to Chicago, MacArthur has offices in India and Nigeria.

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.

About John and Catherine MacArthur Right Arrow

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

The MacArthurs’ longtime friend and attorney William T. Kirby advised 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.

John left the question of what to fund to MacArthur’s first Board of Directors. In less than a year, the Board began to award grants.

About our history Right Arrow

In the United States, private foundations are charitable organizations that provide grants to organizations or individuals working to address social challenges. Foundations can operate locally, nationally, or internationally and have the flexibility to choose 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.

A grant is an award of financial support that serves a charitable purpose. It can be provided for a specific project or general operations. It can be awarded to an individual or to an organization.

MacArthur makes grants to advance our mission and program goals. Drawing on the knowledge of our Staff and experts in the field we formulate specific strategies that guide decisions about how and where our funding can have significant impact. These strategies are reviewed and adjusted over time. For up-to-date strategies, funding priorities, grantmaking guidelines, and our evaluation for learning, explore our Programs.

MacArthur supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. Our grants are generally long-term, strategic investments, that build evidence about what works and advance solutions to often intractable problems.

We make grants that address a range of issues across our Big Bets, Awards, Enduring Commitments, and Field Support. To learn more about our current areas of work, view more about our Programs.

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Our mission and values guide how we conduct ourselves and relate to grantees, partners, and communities.

  • The world is more just when actions are inclusive, and fair, where past and present barriers are removed to provide equitable access, treatment, consideration, and opportunity.
  • The world is more verdant and abundant when the planet and its people flourish.
  • The world is more peaceful when people are free from fear, conflict, violence, and war.

MacArthur has global reach. Since 1978, we have supported organizations that work in 117 countries.

Our U.S. grantmaking impacts nearly every state in the nation. In addition, we have an enduring commitment to Chicago, which is our headquarters and the city John and Catherine MacArthur called home.

The MacArthur Fellowship is a five-year, “no strings attached” grant to individuals who show exceptional creativity and the promise and potential for future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment. The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements. There are no limits on age or area of activity.

About the MacArthur Fellowship Right Arrow

Individuals cannot apply for the MacArthur Fellowship, and unsolicited nominations are not accepted.

Nominees are put forth through a constantly changing pool of invited external nominators chosen from as broad a range of fields and areas of interest as possible. Nominators, evaluators, and selectors all serve anonymously, and their correspondence is kept confidential. This policy enables participants to provide their honest impressions, independent of outside influence.

About the MacArthur Fellowship Right Arrow

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.

Learn more about applying for a grant Right Arrow

Only the MacArthur Fellows Program and the Leaders for a New Chicago award provide grants to individuals. The MacArthur Fellows program does not accept applications. For more information on Leaders for a New Chicago, consult the Field Foundation’s guidelines.

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

Our grantmaking totals vary year-to-year. In 2023, the Foundation paid out $318 million in grants and program-related investments to organizations and individuals in the United States and around the world. Since 1978, the Foundation has awarded more than $8 billion through grants and impact investments to more than 10,000 organizations and creative individuals. For the most up-to-date numbers, view our Financials.

Our financial overview Right Arrow

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

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

In limited circumstances, however, we may accept donations. This could include, for example, a case where a donor wishes to make a substantial donation because our programs directly meet their interests, 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.

No, we do not receive government funding. Private foundations like MacArthur act independently of any private business and of the United States government. MacArthur’s endowment is the sole source of funds for the grants we make.

As of December 31, 2023, MacArthur's assets totaled roughly $8.3 billion.

Our investment summary Right Arrow

Chicago is MacArthur’s headquarters, with offices in New Delhi, India and in Abuja, Nigeria.

Our Chicago 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.

About the historic Marquette Building Right Arrow

Our contact information Right Arrow

We post our open positions online. Due to the number of applications received, we are unable to respond to phone inquiries regarding the status of our recruiting. Due to the limited number of employment opportunities available at the Foundation, we have compiled a list of resources that may help individuals exploring a career in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector.

Note to Media

Members of the media seeking comment from the Foundation or to interview a MacArthur staff person, should call MacArthur Communications at (312) 917-3690 or email Kristen Mack.