OVERVIEW: Signatories to the Giving Pledge, Ray Dalio and his wife Barbara donate to hundreds of nonprofits every year through the Dalio Foundation. Education – including at the postsecondary level – is among the foundation's highest priorities. Universities have received support for medical and environmental research, scholarships, and arts programs, to name a few.
IP TAKE: The Dalio Foundation has major assets and has ramped up its giving significantly in recent years. However, the path to earning support is unclear, since the foundation’s website has no clear grantmaking guidelines.
PROFILE: Founded in 2003, the Dalio Foundation (formerly known as the Dalio Family Foundation) is the main philanthropic vehicle of Ray Dalio, who runs the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, and his wife Barbara. The foundation holds north of $800 million in assets as of the most recent information available. In addition, its grantmaking has soared in recent years, jumping from $44 million in 2011 to a reported $119 million in 2014. Meditation and general mental health are two of Dalio's chief interests, but he and his wife Barbara support a wide range of organizations working in many areas.
Universities and research institutes frequently receive grants in each of the following program areas:
Education prioritizes projects based in Connecticut, such as the Connecticut Opportunity Project and Connecticut RISE Network, but the foundation funds outside the state as well—for instance, it recently provided significant support for the Harvard Innovation Labs.
The Ocean Exploration and Awareness Program, based on Ray’s belief that “ocean exploration is as or more important and more exciting than space exploration,” provides a research vessel and a suite of instruments and tools “to support the research of scientists worldwide and serve as a cutting-edge media platform that is used to share exciting discoveries with the public.”
Scaling Impact Through Computing “supports the development and deployment of affordable computing in emerging markets and communities of need as a means of scaling impact.”
The Mental Health and Wellness program “provides significant support for bipolar research, including basic research into its genetic underpinnings” as well as “cutting edge cardiovascular research, machine learning and device development...integrative health...support for the Gates Polio Eradication Initiative, and meditation training for inner-city school children, veterans and groups under stress.”
Financial Inclusion “supports microfinance and other financial inclusion initiatives (including support for Grameen America, the Robin Hood Foundation, Harlem Children’s Zone and ACCION International) that provide underserved communities with a range of opportunities to help build their own capacity, self-sufficiency and resilience.”
Community and the Arts grants support a number of organizations, “including the Bruce Museum, Byram Park, Just Give, Boy Scouts of America...Greenwich Town Party, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.”
Dalio’s China programs support both child welfare, especially research into developmental disabilities, and capacity building for philanthropic organizations.
While the Dalio Foundation publicizes how much money it has given away in total, it is not transparent about its grantmaking habits or typical grant amounts. The foundation’s website states that “criteria for selection are clearly specified and strictly followed,” although it does not say what they are.
Dalio does not accept unsolicited proposals or donation requests, as all proposals “are initiated internally and vetted by the professional staff and experts who provide their recommendations.”
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