Updated: Jul 29, 2021
I participated in a teleconference call today sponsored by Bolder Giving and featuring Diane Feeney. Diane’s father is Chuck Feeney, the co-founder of Duty Free Shoppers. Mr. Feeney donated his entire business interests to Atlantic Philanthropies and ensured that the foundation would pay-out in his lifetime. Diane and her family set up the French American Charitable Trust (FACT), to fund social justice causes in the U.S. and France. The foundation’s focus is funding community organizations and grassroots groups, directly helping people and organizations who suffer from social inequality.
Influenced by her father, Diane guided her family’s foundation to pay-out assets in her lifetime. After having donated $54 million to social justices causes, FACT will soon close its doors.
The call was hosted by Anne Ellinger, co-founder of Bolder Giving. The mission of Bolder Giving is to inspire and support people to give at their full potential. Diane described the conversation she and her family had to decide to pay-out the assets of the foundation. She talked about how surprised she was at the 5% minimum pay-out requirement of U.S. foundations AND the fact that the 5% has in some instances turned into a cap. Diane fully believes in the “giving while living” philosophy. Her family made the decision for two reasons: First, they wanted to apply as much money to their programs of interest and second it was a great way for the family to come together and they did not want to open it to the next generation.
The foundation is currently in the process of closing. Anne asked Diane about whether the family will stay connected despite not having the foundation. Diane responded by saying that the process has been positive and actually brought her family together. She is going on to start a giving program with her sister once the foundation is fully closed. Diane is personally interested in women’s economic development and it will be the focus her future work.
One of the attendees asked Diane about her own identity once the foundation is closed. The fact that she has found her next step and still has her own personal giving has helped her, but she believes it is important to not solely identify with the donor part of one’s self.
Another attendee asked about the impact of closing the foundation on their grantees. They funded about 30 organizations each year over 10-15 years. They informed the grantees 4 years ago about their plans to pay-out the assets of the foundation. They shifted their grant focus a bit and ensured that the grantees had fundraising plans in place. They made two-year grants to help grantees diversify and strengthen their fundraising capacity and capabilities.
I turned the conversation towards impact investing. Diane’s foundation did not make many investments, but she does see value in aligning investing with the mission and supporting overall grantmaking.
It is always interesting to hear a person’s story and experiences. It was an inspiring conversation taking a different look at the level of gifting, the timing of pay-out and the fundamental philosophies which guide gifting.