MacArthur Foundation

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports initiatives to building a better world


The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation was founded in 1970. The foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, flourishing, and peaceful world. It is the 10th-largest private foundation in the United States. Based in Chicago, the Foundation supports non-profit organisations in approximately 50 countries. MacArthur Foundation has awarded more than $5.5 billion since its first grants in 1978. With an endowment of $6.50 billion, the foundation provides approximately $225 million annually in grants and program-related investments.


John D. MacArthur (1897-1978) developed and owned Bankers Life and Casualty Company and other businesses, as well as considerable property in Florida and New York. His wife Catherine (1909-1981) held positions in many of these companies and served as a director of the Foundation. John died on January 6, 1978, with a fortune that surpassed $1 billion. He was considered one of the three richest men in the United States at the time. MacArthur left 92 per cent of his estate to begin the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The composition of the Foundation’s first Board of Directors, per MacArthur’s will, also included Catherine, J. Roderick MacArthur (a son from John’s first marriage who was ideologically more liberal), two other officers of Bankers Life and Casualty, and radio commentator Paul Harvey.


The Foundation’s mission is to support creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.

Geographical Location

The Foundation supports organisations operating in around 50 countries. Even though the foundation is based in Chicago, it has offices in India, Mexico, and Nigeria. Its scope is global.

Areas of Focus

The present areas of focus are arts, over-incarceration, global climate change, nuclear risk, and significantly increasing capital for the social sector. The foundation continues as well its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsible and responsive democracy. The areas supported by the foundation are: Aging, Arts & Culture, Climate Change, Community Development, Conservation, Debt/Deficit, Education, Health, Housing, Human Rights, Justice, Media, Migration/Immigration, Peace & Security, Policy, Population, Research, Science, Technology, Youth.


The foundation awards grants and prizes in funding areas including arts and culture, community and economic development, digital media and learning, housing, and juvenile justice.

The management team

Julia Stasch is the current President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Formerly, as Vice President of U.S. Programs, she was responsible for US grantmaking.

Examples of types of organizations funded

The MacArthur Fellowship is an award issued by the MacArthur Foundation each year, to typically 20 to 25 citizens or residents of the United States, of any age and working in any field, who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work.” According to the Foundation, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but an investment in a person’s originality and potential. As an example, last year (2015) Patrick Awuah was awarded a fellowship. Patrik is an Education Entrepreneur that is creating a new model for higher education in Africa that combines training in ethical leadership, a liberal arts tradition, and skills for contemporary African needs and opportunities.

The organisation supports non-profits and social enterprises, by providing education and grants to organizations working with social change. It also awards outstanding individuals working with social issues.