Celebrating the successful transition of the Freddie Mac Foundation

By Tamara Copeland
President, Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

Today, the Freddie Mac Foundation announced its plan to continue giving in our region through 2016. Is this a success? Yes, it sure is!

In September 2008, we didn’t know what the future might hold for the Freddie Mac Foundation. An announcement had been made by the federal government that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (the “conservator”) would control how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operated and how they spent their resources. At risk was $47M that was invested by these two entities in about 400 nonprofit organizations across our region. If those investments were discontinued, people were going to suffer.

The announcement about the conservator was made on a Sunday. By Friday of that same week, the 8 Neighbors group was born. 8 Neighbors was, and is, a partnership of eight regional organizations: the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, Leadership Greater Washington, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the Nonprofit Roundtable, the United Way of the National Capital Area and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, all committed to improving the lives of people who live in our region.

This group developed a media strategy, a legislative strategy, and a community engagement strategy. Over the next couple of months, our advocacy contributed to an announcement in December 2008 that both Freddie and Fannie would continue their philanthropic investments in the region. We celebrated, though we also knew that impending structural changes to both organizations would permanently impact their giving in the future.

In 2011, the Freddie Mac Foundation announced that like its sister organization, the Fannie Mae Foundation, it would be closing its doors. They slated 2014 as an endpoint. Following the announcement, 8 Neighbors continued behind the scenes outreach to the leaders of the Freddie Mac Foundation to offer perspectives on how the foundation’s plans to spend down would impact our region.

Today, the foundation announced how it will manage its closure – with a plan that carefully winds down giving to soften the impact on its grantees. Beginning next year and lasting through 2016, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region will administer remaining grants. Would we have wanted the foundation to continue in perpetuity? Of course. But given the current reality, this is a successful outcome.

Our hats are off to the leaders of the Freddie Mac Foundation for all that they have done for the region over their decades-long existence and for their strategy for the near future.

Related information:
Mortgage Giants’ Fall May Hurt Nonprofits (WaPo, Sept. 2008)

Who will step up to fill Freddie’s and Fannie’s pullback on giving? by Tamara Copeland and Chuck Bean (WaPo, Sept. 2011)

New report from 8 Neighbors on the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s giving in the Greater Washington region (Daily, Oct. 2011)

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