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The Robina Foundation is a Minnesota-based limited-life foundation slated to end on December 31, 2020. As a limited-life foundation (also known as a term-limited, time-limited, or spend-down foundation), Robina Foundation committed to donate its entire assets during a limited period of time.

The Foundation will spend down its assets of more than $150 million within a timeframe of roughly 20 years. Throughout the operation of the Foundation, which began in 2004, the Board was informed by the vision of its founder, James H. Binger.


The Robina Foundation seeks to positively impact critical social issues by encouraging innovation and financially supporting transformative projects of its four institutional partners. These partners, selected by the Foundation’s founder are: Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Minneapolis, MN; The Council on Foreign Relations, New York, NY; University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis, MN; and Yale University, New Haven, CT.

James H. Binger had a personal connection to each of Robina Foundation’s designees. He was an alumnus of Yale and of the University of Minnesota Law School. He was a long-time member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and regularly attended events there. He and his wife were treated by Abbott Northwestern physicians for many years, and he understood the hospital’s significance as a major health care provider in Minneapolis.

Binger encouraged the Foundation’s board to make significant gifts to these institutions, ones that would be transformational for the recipient organizations and have significant impact on society.

The Foundation’s grantmaking program was proactive and collaborative, driven by a strong commitment to the development of new ideas and models that have the potential to significantly improve both the selected institutions and the larger society in which we live.


James H. Binger, 1916-2004, lived almost all of his life in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, but he was a man of the world.

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    Born in St. Paul, Mr. Binger grew up on St. Paul’s Summit Avenue, down the street from his high school sweetheart, Virginia McKnight. He was married for more than 60 years to Virginia, whose father was a transformative leader of 3M and whose parents founded the McKnight Foundation.

    Mr. Binger graduated from St. Paul Academy and from Yale University, where he studied economics. He entered law school at the University of Minnesota in 1939 and completed his L.L.B. degree in 1941. His first job out of school was with the law firm that is now Dorsey & Whitney. One of his clients was Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company, which later became Honeywell, Inc. Mr. Binger joined Honeywell in 1943, rising through the ranks to become president, chairman of the board, and chairman of the executive committee. He led the company through a remarkable expansion into the defense, aerospace, and computer industries.

    In 1974, when his father-in-law asked Virginia Binger to run The McKnight Foundation, Mr. Binger joined McKnight’s board of directors, along with the couple’s children. He headed the investment committee and helped establish the Foundation’s fiscal policies, including managing the Foundation’s investment portfolio to keep grantmaking capacity ahead of inflation. He extended the Foundation’s grantmaking into brain research, the arts and international grantmaking.

    Binger was also a racehorse owner, an avid polo player, and the owner of a group of Broadway theaters. Theater is a notoriously difficult business, but Binger’s company Jujamcyn thrived, eventually owning five of Broadway’s most successful theaters, with such hits as Angels in America and The Producers. When he died on November 3, 2004, the lights on Broadway were dimmed in his honor.

    Mr. Binger was generous with his time, money and intellect. He was a director of the Vivian Beaumont Theaters, a member of the executive committee of the League of American Theaters, and a lifetime member of the board of the Guthrie Theater. He also served as a director of the International Peace Academy, the Atlantic Institute of Foreign Affairs, Northwest Airlines, 3M Company, Chase Manhattan Bank, and the Advisory Committee on Trade Relations. In 1978, Mr. Binger founded his own investment firm, Tartan Investments.

    In 2004 Jim Binger demonstrated his personal commitment to philanthropy with the establishment of the Robina Foundation. He began by engaging a charitable advisory firm to help him draw up bylaws and select and recruit the board. Binger envisioned Robina as a limited-life foundation from the start, concerned about possible dilution of his vision and driven by the determination that the Foundation’s assets be put to immediate use.

Legacy Report

As the Foundation neared the end of its term, the Board of Directors engaged a philanthropic giving expert to discuss Robina’s work with the Board and Robina’s grantees. Robina’s Legacy Report describes the lessons learned from the Robina experience and includes the Foundation’s Guiding Principles” as well as a list of Robina’s grants.

Read the Report