News and analysis
February 06, 2011

No. 1: George Soros


Financier and philanthropist George Soros meets the organizers of a training center for single mothers sponsored by his Open Society Institute in Dakar.

Amount donated in 2010: $332-million

Beneficiary: Open Society Foundations

Donor’s background: Mr. Soros is chairman of Soros Fund Management, a New York firm that manages hedge funds, and is the founder of the Open Society Foundations, with headquarters in New York.

Mr. Soros, 80, gave $332-million to his Open Society Foundations, a New York organization that includes the Open Society Institute—which Mr. Soros established in 1993 to support the development of democratic institutions throughout Central and Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union—and other grant makers that are primarily supported by his wealth.

In 2010 the Open Society Foundations gave an estimated $875-million to nonprofit groups. One of the largest grants was $100-million to Human Rights Watch, a New York group that investigates and publicizes human-rights abuses worldwide, to enable the organization to increase the number of its regional offices around the globe and to expand its research capabilities. Mr. Soros asked the human-rights organization in September to use the news of the Open Society Foundations grant to raise an additional $100-million from other donors, but he did not make that a requirement.

In an interview with The Chronicle in September, Mr. Soros said that his foundations awarded the grant as a way to endorse Human Rights Watch’s plans to expand its reach. He credits the organization with helping to form him as a philanthropist decades ago and said he hoped the grant would encourage philanthropists outside of Europe and North America to support human-rights efforts.

“It’s going to be an uphill struggle because in many countries tax [laws] are not as favorable as in the U.S., and there isn’t a tradition and culture of giving to rather abstract causes,” said Mr. Soros.

Open Society Foundations also awarded $11-million last year to the Performing Arts Recovery Initiative, a one-time grant program managed by the Fund for the City of New York, to help small New York arts groups that were hit hard by the financial crisis. Through the award, 79 arts groups will receive two-year grants ranging from $65,000 to $250,000 to pay for operating expenses.

—Maria Di Mento

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