Heinz foundation's shift in strategy affects money flow
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There is a major strategy shift under way at The Heinz Endowments, the region's second-wealthiest philanthropy, that will solidify Teresa Heinz as foundation chair and affect how much money flows to nonprofit groups in the Pittsburgh area.
The new strategy, revealed Friday on a redesigned Heinz Endowments Web site, will allocate 30 percent of the foundation's annual spending over the next five years to three "big bets": reform of the Pittsburgh Public Schools under Superintendent Mark Roosevelt; an improvement in the quality and pace of Downtown's real estate development; and support for economic development projects that combine the pursuit of technological innovation with a concern for the environment.
As part of the shift, the directors of the Howard Heinz Endowment and the Vira I. Heinz Endowment decided to create a single group -- The Heinz Endowments -- governed by a single board. Atop that board is Ms. Heinz, wife of Sen. John Kerry and widow of the late Sen. John Heinz. Jim Walton, who had been chair of the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, is now vice chair of the combined organization.
Ms. Heinz's three sons are also on the combined board.
With $1.4 billion in assets, the Heinz Endowments is one of the 50 largest foundations in the United States, second only to the $2 billion Richard King Mellon Foundation in the Pittsburgh area. Handing out an average of $60 million a year in grants, it remains a key source of support for countless nonprofit organizations that depend on Heinz's money to fund arts, education, economic development, children and family programs.
Heinz Endowments President Max King said the sharpening of focus to three strategic initiatives means some traditional grantees will receive less money -- or no money at all.
"That will be painful," he said.
Mr. King added: "We weren't as focused as we needed to be."
Heinz board members also have settled on a series of metrics designed to better evaluate grant-making opportunities up front -- a process that involves scrutiny of the grantee's leadership, governance and fiscal management.
There are risks to the new strategic approach, the foundation acknowledges. The prospects for Downtown development could slacken due to national economic factors; the Pittsburgh school board could pull its support of school reform; and other areas of the country could outthink Pittsburgh in the area of "green innovation" -- a marriage of technology and environmental concerns.
"These are risks we have to take if we really want important, transformative work," Ms. Heinz said in a new copy of the foundation's magazine, called "h." "We have to place some big bets, do our best to make them pay off and, if they don't, learn why not and move on to other things."
First Published March 18, 2007 12:00 am