In accordance with founder Charles L. McCune's stipulation that the foundation's assets be paid out by October 2029, the foundation plans to distribute approximately $343 million in grants over the next sixteen years. Established in 1979, the foundation has focused its grantmaking in the areas of education; health and human services; arts, humanities, and religion; and civic, community, and economic development. Last year, it added a new grantmaking area — big ideas — through which it plans to make transformative multimillion-dollar grants that strengthen the broader community. According to the Tribune-Review, "big idea" grants will have a matching requirement.
Recently, McCune awarded its first "big idea" grant, $7 million, to the Innovation Ecosystem Strategic Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University to launch a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship focused on new business and job creation in western Pennsylvania. "Funds will be used to endow financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students that are on an entrepreneurial/innovation track, support course development in this field, increase staff capacity and create start-up and gap funds," McCune Foundation board chair Michael M. Edwards said in a statement in the foundation's 2012 annual report.
In addition, the foundation has ended the distribution of 20 percent of its assets, approximately $80 million in 2012, to seven community foundations outside Pennsylvania and going forward will devote 100 percent of its grantmaking to organizations working in the twenty-six counties of western Pennsylvania. As it spends down, the foundation — which requires grant recipients to list it as an anonymous donor — will make fewer but larger grants, while increasing its annual grantmaking from about $17 million to $26 million, the Tribune-Review reports.
"What we decided to do was make big bets, rather than just add zeros to the existing work," said executive director Henry Beukema. "We won't be here after October 2029, but we expect the Big Idea to keep living beyond our end date for the benefit of the institution and the community."