- Assets: $486,147,664 (2005)
- Grants Received: $0 (2005)
- Grants Awarded: $21,904,943 (2005)
Established in 1986 and incorporated in 1995, the Vira I. Heinz Endowment was named for the wife of Clifford Heinz, Howard Heinz’s brother. Clifford and Howard were the sons of Henry J. Heinz, who founded the Heinz food processing company in 1869. The Vira I. Heinz Endowment and the Howard Heinz Endowment together comprise the entity known as the Heinz Endowments; they share the same website, e-mail address, physical address, and telephone numbers. They also share the same programs and ideology, though they file separate 990-PF forms with the IRS. They are linked to the Heinz Family Philanthropies, whose Chairman is Teresa Heinz Kerry (the wife of John Kerry), and their grant-making is directed predominantly toward groups based in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Vira I. Heinz Endowment’s President is Maxwell King (who is also President of the Howard Heinz Endowment); its Chief Financial Officer is Jack E. Kime (who is also the CFO of the Howard Heinz Endowment); and its Board Chairman is James M. Walton. Teresa Heinz Kerry sits on the Vira I. Heinz Endowment’s Board of Directors, in addition to her duties as Chairman of both the Howard Heinz Endowment and the Heinz Family Foundation.
The Vira I. Heinz Endowment’s philanthropy is divided among five main program areas:
Arts and Culture: This program “works to promote the overall vitality of Pittsburgh’s cultural sector and its relevance to civic life.” Its specific goals are to expand opportunities for arts learning and participation; build creative capital; and advance Pittsburgh as a cultural center.
Children, Youth & Families: This program “seeks to ensure that the region’s young children and adolescents are given the educational preparation and support they need to succeed in school and in life.”
Economic Opportunity: This program aims to bring new jobs to the Pittsburgh area, with particular emphasis on racial and ethnic preferences, or affirmative action, which the Vira I Heinz Endowment characterizes as policies that bring about “equitable prosperity” and “improved demographic balance.”
Education: This program “seeks to improve educational outcomes for the [Pittsburgh] region’s children by working with schools and communities that face significant learning challenges and demonstrate a commitment to overcoming them.” The focus is predominantly on African American youngsters.
Environment: This program “seeks to counter the trend toward uncontrolled, environmentally-degrading urban decentralization”; “encourages greater private sector involvement in environmental protection and restoration”; and “works to protect the integrity of critical ecosystems and watersheds as complex, integrated systems.” The beneficiaries of this program’s support are generally opposed to the use of land for such endeavors as logging, mining, and oil exploration; many are hostile to a capitalist economic model as well.
The Vira I. Heinz Endowment opposes “suburban sprawl,” a term that refers to people relocating en masse from urban to suburban or rural areas. According to Heinz, such migrations have a negative impact on natural ecosystems. “The revitalization of existing urban areas,” adds Heinz, is “as important as controlling growth in rural and suburban communities.”
In recent years the Vira I. Heinz Endowment has given grants to the the Brookings Institution; the Carnegie Foundation; the Council on Foundations; the Izaak Walton League of America; the Minneapolis Foundation; the National Urban League; the Nature Conservancy; Tides Foundation and the Tides Center; Waterkeeper Alliance; the Wilderness Society; the Wildlands Conservancy; and the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, click here.