Location: Chicago, Ill.
Contact info: www.macfound.org Phone: (312) 726-8000
Coverage Area: Funds programs across the United States, as well as over 60 countries around the world.
Subject Area: Community and economic development, affordable housing, juvenile justice reform, education (with an emerging interest in digital media and learning),and policy research and analysis. (U.S. programs)
Assets: $5.7 billion (2011)
Last Year Total Giving: $230 million (2011)
In a nutshell: John D. MacArthur, sole owner of the nation’s largest privately held insurance company, was one of the three wealthiest men in America at the time of his death in 1978. John, along with his wife Catherine T. MacArthur, started the foundation in 1970, focusing on a broad range of issues.
As the foundation matured, it deepened its investment in key areas, including, human rights and international justice, juvenile justice, affordable housing, and community and economic development.
The foundation’s most youth-centered venture is its Models for Change initiative, an effort to seed long-term, macro-level reform of state juvenile justice systems. The initiative began with investments in research on the adolescent brain and delinquent behavior, and then moved toward projects to help four states – Illinois, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Washington – develop reform-minded legislation, policy and programs.
The foundation also helped a handful of nonprofits establish “action centers” on mental health, juvenile defense and racial disparities, and provided support to 12 additional states to work on reforms around one of those three issues.
With the commitment to the four core Models for Change states winding down, the foundation is now looking at ways to showcase successes from the work.
Without a doubt, the foundation’s most famous program is the MacArthur Fellows Program, known better as the “Genius Awards.” The program awards five-year, unrestricted fellowships to individuals across all ages and fields who show exceptional merit. The fellowship comes with a no-strings-attached, $500,000 award.
Among the notable youth advocates and services leaders to win the award:
-Keith Hefner, executive director of Youth Communication
-Robert Woodson, founder and president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise
-Lateefah Simon, former executive director of San Francisco’s Center for Young Women’s Development
-Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot, Harvard professor and sociologist who examines the culture of schools, the patterns and structures of classroom life, socialization within families and communities, and the relationships between culture and learning styles
-Joseph Marshall, Jr., co-founder and Executive Director of Omega Boys Club/Street Soldiers, a youth development and violence prevention organization headquartered in San Francisco
-Sophia Bracy Harris, Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama
-Muriel Snowden, founder of Freedom House in Boston
How to Apply: The Foundation awards the majority of its grants to nonprofit organizations and other tax-exempt organizations identified by their staff. For an overview of the MacArthur foundation grant making process, click here.