taking on activist roles, demanding an accounting
for how their funds are employed.
“;e trend ;ve years ago [for nonpro;ts was]
to trim budgets, trim sta;, trim expenses,” says
Fred ;ieman, president of the Buhl Foundation,
which emphasizes a special concern for assisting people in Allegheny County — particularly
in Pittsburgh and its North Side neighborhoods.
“I think what we’re seeing today is organizations
really needing to merge, consolidate and ;nd
creative, new revenue sources — or die.”
Even with those di;culties, Pittsburgh recov-
ered relatively quickly from the Great Recession.
By the end of 2012, the Brookings Institution
reported that Pittsburgh was one of the ;rst three
U.S. cities to have bounced back, along with Dallas
and Knoxville, Tenn. Today, young people are stay-
ing as well as migrating here because of well-paying
jobs in the tech, education and health sectors. ;
;e region’s philanthropists now say we’re on
the bleeding edge of a whole new era. “[In the
past], we were always trying to get out from under
the economic decline of the steel industry,” says
one philanthropic leader who spoke anonymously
due to foundation rules. “What’s changed is that
in the past three or four years — a;er the recovery
started — Pittsburgh has emerged as a pretty good
place to live and to work. We’re not trying to dig
our way out of the hole now. We can see over the
edge, and we’re trying to ;gure out where to go.”
“I completely believe we are on the cusp of
a new period of possibility in Pittsburgh,” says
Grant Oliphant, who joined ;e Heinz Endow-
ments as president in April a;er running ;e
Pittsburgh Foundation for six years. “We have new
leadership at both the city and county level, new
leadership at the universities and a very di;erent
economic environment. Instead of having to beg
for development, we’re beginning to see competi-
tion for development.”
Still, the bleeding edge can be a risky place to
be. Is our region up to the challenge, and does it
have the resources to sustain its reinvention?
New eras o;en are born amidst turnover and upheaval, and Pittsburgh’s philanthropic community is no di;erent. In 2013, three
of the city’s most prominent foundations — two of
them among the dozen wealthiest — announced
that they would be shutting the doors:
■ ;e Jack Buncher Foundation was created in
2001 following the death of Jack Buncher and was
the 11th most-generous foundation in the region,
according to the Foundation Center. It announced
in February 2013 that it was slowly transferring
its assets — worth $192 million in 2011 — to ;ve
other area nonpro;ts.
■ ;e McCune Foundation, which focuses on
promoting economic and community development and was the ;;h most-generous in the
region in 2012, announced in March 2013 that it
would be dispersing its remaining $343 million
and shutting its doors in 2029.
■ In October 2013, the 85-year-old Falk Foundation, a group dedicated to social justice, decided
to liquidate its $22 million endowment altogether.
To lose three foundations in a relatively short
period of time was a bit of a shock, considering
that the vast majority of U.S. family foundations
operate in perpetuity. According to the Foundation Center, about 12 percent of private foundations have incorporated time limits into their
I think what
— Fred Thieman,
president of the
To lose three foundations in a relatively
short period was a bit of a shock,
considering that the vast majority of U.S.
family foundations operate in perpetuity.