News and analysis
January 21, 2011

With an Expected $9-Billion Windfall, the Cargill Philanthropies Could Become America’s Third Largest Grant Maker

Margaret A. Cargill

A set of philanthropies created by Margaret A. Cargill, an heir to the Cargill Corporation who died in 2006, could soon become, collectively, the third-wealthiest grant maker in the United States.

The infusion of money—which could total roughly $9-billion—would come as part of a deal that is expected to enable the philanthropies to convert illiquid shares in the private Cargill Corporation, left to them by Ms. Cargill, into shares in Mosaic, a public company owned largely by Cargill, an international agricultural, food, and financial company.

If all goes as planned, the transaction will give the three funds, known collectively as the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, a way to settle Ms. Cargill’s estate this year—and launch them into the very top rung of the nation’s grant makers. Only the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in Seattle, and the Ford Foundation, in New York, held more than $9-billion in assets as of 2009.

The roughly $9-billion—a sum that will fluctuate depending on how Mosaic fares in the stock market—will be split between two funds, the Anne Ray Charitable Trust and the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, in Eden Prairie, Minn.

A third fund, the Akaloa Resource Foundation, holds $150-million in assets and will not receive additional money.

The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation has a broad mandate. It will eventually support many causes: animal welfare; arts and culture; care for the elderly; children and families; the environment; and relief, recovery, and development. Its grant making in arts and culture, the environment, and relief and development is scheduled to begin this year.

Meanwhile, the Akaloa fund supports groups in Southern California; the Anne Ray Charitable Trust (named after Ms. Cargill's mother) supports seven national and international charities including the American Red Cross and the Nature Conservancy.

Adding Employees

Anticipating the windfall, the foundations have been adding staff members and shaping their grant-making programs. The Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies have hired 30 staff members and expect to add another 45 over the next five years, according to Sallie L. Gaines, director of communications. They are led by Christine M. Morse, who worked in finance for Cargill Corporation before taking a job at Waycrosse, the company’s family office, where she got to know Ms. Cargill.

A quiet donor during her lifetime, Ms. Cargill directed her gifts to interests shaped by her experiences. For example, she gave to charities helping the elderly because of her own experiences growing old.

“Margaret felt so fortunate as she grew older to have the resources to have the help she needed,” says Ms. Gaines. “It grieved her to see people grow old alone without resources to care for them.”

An animal lover, Ms. Cargill was "sickened" "to see ill treatment of animals,” Ms. Gaines said.

Ms. Gaines said that the three funds have a unifying, albeit very broad, vision: “To provide meaningful assistance and support to society, the arts, the environment, and all living things.”