MacArthur's Jonathan Fanton on Foundation Giving in a Tough Economy
November 18, 2008 | Commentary

To the Editor:

“Bracing for Lean Times Ahead” highlights the critical role philanthropy plays in times of economic crisis.

I agree, and believe that foundations should maintain, even increase, their giving in difficult economic times. The issues the MacArthur Foundation confronts at home and abroad — human rights, conservation and affordable housing preservation, among others — grow more, not less, urgent when the global economy is in recession.

The MacArthur Foundation’s endowment has declined this year, yet we remain committed to being a long-term, steady partner to organizations we support. We chose to maintain our grant-making levels in past recessions, and we intend to do so again now.

MacArthur remains in close contact with our grantees to learn how they are faring. Many have related significant losses to their endowments and challenging fund-raising environments.

Even before the downturn, arts and culture organizations in Chicago saw cutbacks in public financing. Now they are reporting reduced ticket sales and increased costs for out-of-town tours.

In response, MacArthur has increased our annual operating support for arts and culture groups in Chicago. And our $68 million foreclosure initiative responds to local needs resulting from the economic crisis, which threatens to disrupt hard-won progress in some of the city’s most challenging neighborhoods.

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