March 1, 2010; Wall Street Journal |

The Wall Street Journal’s take on hedge fund philanthropy—that “running a hedge fund is by necessity a secretive activity, while philanthropy thrives on publicity”—raises an implicit challenge for nonprofits: do U.S. nonprofits know where their hedge fund foundations are? For most nonprofits, hedge fund managers are secretive on both sides of that equation, or at a minimum, it’s next to impossible for a nonprofit to get access to a hedge fund philanthropy unless the nonprofit has some sort of preexisting relationship with the wealthy donor. Maybe it’s the British hedge fund managers who like being visible donors. The WSJ article profiles Michael Hintze’s $35 million in donations to 150 charities during the last five years. Last year, Chris Hohn put nearly a half billion pounds into his wife’s foundation (dedicated to children’s issues), reaching a total of £1.1 billion over 4 years, topping Scottish billionaire Tom Hunter’s £1 billion pledge. While there are some U.S. charities that have benefited wildly from their relationships with hedge fund billionaires (think Stanley Druckenmiller and the Harlem Children’s Zone or Steve Mandel and Teach for America), most U.S. nonprofits probably don’t know the hedge fund philanthropists, much less know how to access them. Who are the top U.S. hedge fund foundations? Most people might not recognize Open Society Institute as not only George Soros’s philanthropy, but the nation’s top hedge fund foundation. Other top hedge fund foundations in 2007 were the Robertson Foundation (Julian Robertson is a big TFA supporter), the Simons Foundation, the T. Boone Pickens Foundation (yes, he’s a hedge fund guy as well as a oil and gas man), and the Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, in 2008 joined by Mandel’s ZOOM Foundation and Lone Pine Foundation and the multiple donor hedge fund foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation established by Paul Tudor Jones. Despite these tabulations by Absolute Return, there doesn’t seem to be an easily available hedge fund foundation database for nonprofits to use to figure out how they can get the attention of these charitable but hard-to-find Wall Street billionaires.—Rick Cohen