Social Justice Groups Concerned About Leadership Transition at Atlantic Philanthropies

Leaders of social justice nonprofits have expressed concern that Atlantic Philanthropies, the large private foundation created by Duty Free Shoppers co-founder Charles F. "Chuck" Feeney in 1982, will devote more resources to biomedical research and higher education at the expense of progressive causes as it spends down its endowment over the next five years, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.

When Atlantic president and CEO Gara LaMarche announced in June that he had decided to leave the foundation, effective September 1, many social justice groups sent letters to the Atlantic board urging it to continue its longstanding support for social justice causes. Meanwhile, the approval of all but one of the eighty grants up for review at its most recent meeting has provided some reassurance that changes in the foundation's grantmaking priorities will be gradual.

Atlantic spokesman Ben Wyskida told the Chronicle that the foundation is just beginning the process of selecting a new president and determining the organization's priorities for its final five years. He also said it was too early to speculate on the strategic direction of the organization, but reiterated a commitment to its core mission.

While Atlantic grantees took the recent grant announcement as a positive sign, many expressed concern about the uncertainty that remains with respect to LaMarche's successor. "I don't feel I've heard enough to know that there is security that those [social justice] portfolios will remain priorities of the institution," said National Council of La Raza vice president of research, advocacy, and legislation Eric Rodriguez. "We will have to wait and see."

Caroline Preston. "Atlantic Philanthropies Sends Positive Signal to Advocacy Groups." Chronicle of Philanthropy 06/30/2011.