After six decades, Goldman Fund will close in 2012

After more than 60 years of high-impact philanthropy, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund announced this week it will cease operations at the end of next year.

The announcement came less than two months after the death of the fund’s co-founder, Richard Goldman, who died Nov. 29 in San Francisco at the age of 90.

As of Dec. 31, 2012, all remaining assets in the fund will be divided among the family foundations of the three Goldman children: John Goldman of Atherton, Doug Goldman of San Francisco and Susie Gelman of Chevy Chase, Md. On that date, the Goldman Fund’s office on Pacific Avenue in San Francisco will shut its doors.

Currently, assets in the Goldman Fund total $280 million, according to Amber Whiteside, a publicist for the fund.

Richard Goldman was an outspoken advocate for a charitable foundation such as his spending down its assets within a set time period, so the impending closure of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund is hardly a surprise.

“It was always the wish of my parents that [the fund] would end after they passed away,” said John Goldman. “They felt their children and grandchildren would be able to address the needs of their time. We are abiding by their wishes.”

He said the nearly two-year advance notice before the closure is to “make sure that any transition was done in an orderly and respectful manner, cognizant of the needs of all parties –– grantees, professionals and ourselves –– ensuring there was enough time to wind down the fund’s affairs [in a manner] that made sense.”

Between now and then, the Goldman Fund will not accept requests for new grants, although previously approved 2011-2012 grants will continue to be funded.

Goldman said it was too early to determine whether his foundation, or those of his siblings, would continue to fund any longstanding Goldman Fund grantees.

However, one marquee project of the fund, the annual Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots environmental activists around the world, is a separate entity (with assets of about $50 million) and will not be affected by the closing. Goldman promises the Prize, which hands out $150,000 awards worldwide to environmental activists, will live on.

Goldman Fund executive director Amy Lyons knew this day was coming. “He was always outspoken about his intent not to keep the fund forever,” Lyons said, referring to Richard Goldman. “His philosophy was always that you should give while you live.”

While they lived, Richard and Rhoda Goldman gave generously. The couple formed the foundation in 1951, and over the years it became a powerhouse of local and international philanthropy. Rhoda Goldman died in 1996.

Beneficiaries of the fund included numerous San Francisco beautification projects, environmental and women’s rights advocates, academic institutions and the Jewish community, both in the Bay Area and in Israel.

Since its inception, the fund has disbursed more than $680 million in grants to 2,600 nonprofit organizations, according to the fund’s website. Major beneficiaries included Birthright Israel, The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, U.C. Berkeley’s Richard and Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy, and scores of other projects, agencies and institutions.

The fund last year reportedly handed out $30.8 million to more than 311 organizations.

“This foundation meant so much to them,” said John Goldman, speaking of his parents, “especially with the legacy of tzedakah they adhered to. They spent their lives supporting causes close to their hearts, and I can say we’re committed to carrying on that legacy.”

John and his siblings’ foundations, which reportedly are worth $30 million or more apiece, are: the Brentwood-based John and Marcia Goldman Foundation; the San Francisco–based Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund; and Gelman’s Maryland-based Morningstar Foundation.

Lyons noted that the Goldman Fund closure will result in job losses for nine fulltime fund employees, but she added that this was part of the reason for announcing the fund’s closure two years ahead of time. “It will ultimately mean the employees will find other employment,” she said, “but one of the points is to honor and respect not just the grantees but the employees as well.”

The shutdown of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund will mark the end of an era in local Jewish philanthropy, one Lyons says will not soon be forgotten.

“There will be a certain level of sadness,” she said, “but we’re also trying to focus on the legacy and what was accomplished.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.