February 16, 2012; Source: MacArthur Foundation | Fifteen nonprofit organizations from six countries have been granted the 2012 Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, an annual prize of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The awards range from $350,000 to $2,500,000, determined by the size of the organization. “The awards continue the Foundation’s history of building and supporting institutions that address some of the world’s most pressing problems in creative ways,” according to the Foundation’s website.

The MacArthur Foundation is most known for its fellows program awards (also known as “genius grants”), which are reserved for American citizens or residents. There is no such geographical restriction for the nonprofit awards announced Thursday, and five of the recipients are foreign-based. The Foundation expects each institution to continue highly effective, important work that corresponds with the heart of the foundation’s own goals, making these awards something like genius grants for exemplary, highly-relevant nonprofits.

The recipients are exceptional and heterogeneous. Their missions range from protecting rich ecosystems (the Albertine Rift Conservation Society of Kampala, Uganda, which was awarded $350,000), to defending children’s rights (the National Juvenile Defender Center in Washington, D.C., which received $750,000), to good old gumshoe journalism (the Center for Investigative Reporting of Berkeley, Calif., which received $1 million), to eliminating the abusive financial products and practices that have caused American consumers such distress (the Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, N.C., which received $2 million).

The MacArthur Foundation is building on proven success but there are no strings attached, just as with the genius grants for individuals. These large infusions of capital are designed to “help position these organizations for long-term growth and impact,” according to the foundation. Here are the other very deserving institutions whose work the MacArthur Foundation lauds:

  • Business and Professional People for the Public Interest of Chicago, Ill., which works to reduce poverty—by making public housing more affordable, improving Chicago schools, and promoting open and honest government—received $750,000.
  • Crisis Action of London also received $750,000. The organization works to avert conflicts, prevent human rights abuses and ensure that governments fulfill their obligations to protect civilians during times of conflict.
  • The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law in Washington, D.C. received $1 million. It promotes a global legal environment where civil society, philanthropy and civic participation can thrive.
  • The Moth, a New York-based radio program, is dedicated to the art of storytelling to document our common humanity. It received $750,000.

Other recipients included the Carnegie Moscow Center, the Girls’ Power Initiative, the Moscow Helsinki Group, the Red Nacional de Derechos Humanos, the Community Investment Corporation, the Conservation Strategy Fund and the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University. We encourage you to visit the MacArthur website to learn more about the work of all 15 of the organizations that received these awards. We tend to think MacArthur made some great choices. Would you agree? –Louis Altman