Hedge fund money has been making big waves in U.S. giving areas for years. Now we're starting to see more hedge funders turn to global development. Just recently, for example, we wrote about what hedge fund manager Bill Ackman is up to in this space through the Pershing Square Foundation.
Another funder to watch here is mega billionaire Ray Dalio. We’ve been writing about Dalio a lot at IP recently and with good reason. While not yet a big name in philanthropy, he and his wife Barbara are Giving Pledge signatories, and we recently named them one of the nine most powerful couples in U.S. philanthropy.
Why? Because their Dalio Foundation has grown quite a bit in recent years, and held nearly $600 million in assets at the end of 2012, giving out $29 million that year. These figures may well be higher for 2013.
While we’ve talked about Dalio's mental health giving, his conservation philanthropy, and his particular interest in transcendental meditation, that’s not all he and his family are interested in. The foundation has also been giving big to select global development outfits and we're betting that bigger giving in this arena is yet to come.
Why do we say this? A few reasons.
1. The Dalios support the work of Grameen and Yunus
The Dalio Foundation made a big give of $2.5 million in 2012 to Hope for Haiti, for a project that funds work of Yunus Social Business in that country. Last April, the three organizations announced "a strategic partnership toward helping to establish [...] social business as 'business as usual' in tackling poverty and social challenges such as inadequate access to quality education, nutrition, and healthcare for Haitian children and their families." Kevin Ashley, the top staffer at the Dalio Foundation, sits on the board of Hope for Haiti.
Also in 2012, the Dalios gave over a $1 million to Grameen Research for general opportunity support, as well as funds to Grameen America, some for work in Guatemala. Ashley has served on the national advisory board of Grameen America since 2009.
2. Dalio’s son, Matthew
Usually we talk about the giving that the kids of billionaires will be doing once they take over their parents' foundations. In Dalio’s case, his son Matthew Dalio has been engaged in philanthropy for years. As a kid, Matthew was moved by the plight of orphans in China, inspiring him to establish the China Care Foundation in 2000 before he even started college.
China Care has been receiving steady streams of money from the Dalio Foundation, generally between $100,000 and $400,000 annually. Dalio also sits on the board of China Care with his son.
3. Dalio involvement with China Care has led to other orphan and China funding
Dalio support for China Care has led to other organizations joining the annual grantmaking list. These outfits include World Vision International, Orphans of Rwanda, Save the Children Federation and Half the Sky Foundation, a Berkley-based outfit that teamed up with China Care to establish China Care Home in Beijing in 2009. The Dalio Foundation has also given to help disabled people in China, as well as for other charitable work in that country.
4. There's more money where that came from
Last we checked, Ray Dalio was worth around $15 billion. That's a fortune nearly five times the size of the Rockefeller Foundation's endowment, and it's been growing, along with the assets of the Dalio Foundation. Those numbers, and the Giving Pledge commitment, suggest that the trajectory is only upward for this funder—perhaps dramatically so.
That fact, along with the clear interest of the Dalios in global issues, makes this funder worth watching closely.
A pattern we see a lot is that once a funder gets involved in a particular area, even if modestly at first, that involvement tends to snowball as they meet more people in that space, see more challenges, and—also important—hear more pitches for support of great work. It can be hard to not start writing more checks to more groups, and bigger checks, too.
That has to be especially true if you've pledged to give away half of a vast fortune that just keeps getting bigger every year.