40 years background image
, author
Julia M. Stasch
Former President

When the MacArthur Foundation was created, John D. MacArthur famously said, "I made the money; you guys will have to figure out what to do with it."

With that unusual freedom, for 40 years, dedicated, passionate board members and professionals in our Chicago and international offices have supported creative and effective organizations working to seize opportunities for transformative change. These organizations address some of the most daunting challenges faced by the city, the nation, and the world. During this time, we awarded more than $6.8 billion to nearly 10,000 organizations and individuals in 116 countries and all 50 U.S. states, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Over time, our priorities and approaches have changed, but our commitment to core values remains:  

  • Advance justice – focus on the essential condition for universal human dignity, equitable opportunity, and shared prosperity
  • Be ambitious – recognize that seemingly intractable problems require bold action
  • Pursue impact – aim for transformative change in areas of profound concern
  • Use all tools – creatively employ multiple structures, approaches, and methods
  • Take risk – embrace philanthropy's distinctive role to provide society's risk capital
  • Act with urgency – understand that delay diminishes the potential for impact
  • Listen carefully – ensure that strategies for change support the leadership and reflect the views of affected individuals and communities
  • Take the long view – acknowledge that sustainable change requires a long-term commitment  
  • Learn – inquire and adapt as conditions change
  • Share – broadly distribute information that others find useful, and
  • Embrace humility – remember that philanthropy supports, nurtures, enables, and amplifies the efforts of those who actually do the hard work of constructive change

Effective philanthropy depends on optimism that the world can indeed be a better place. Our optimism is fueled by the courage, ambition, creativity, perseverance, and concern for the common good of the many individuals and organizations around the world that we are honored to support.

The collection that appears throughout this year shares 40 stories that illustrate their achievements and our history.