The Charles A. Frueaff Foundation

It’s moving day at the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation. It’s a hectic but exciting time. After 10 years in the same three-room office space, the Frueauff Foundation is moving to a new 4300-square-foot headquarters complete with board rooms and conference space in Little Rock’s booming River Market district. And they’re taking several Arkansas nonprofits with them.

The Frueauff Foundation’s new offices will provide affordable office space for four other nonprofit organizations: the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Pulaski County, the Arkansas Coalition for Excellence, the Arkansas chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and a brand-new organization working with persons with learning disabilities. The new nonprofit center is but one example of the foundation’s increasingly public profile, a marked contrast to its early days in New York more than 50 years ago.

We catch up with Anna Kay Frueauff Williams, Trustee and Vice President of Communications and Programs, on the day she is finalizing the new lease agreements and making sure the proper names are on the proper doors—the important details and finishing touches that come with moving into a new home.

The Frueauff Foundation was created in 1950 by a bequest from Williams’ great-great-uncle Charles A. Frueauff, a successful New York attorney. The Foundation remained in New York until leadership passed in the late 1980s to a generation born and raised in Arkansas. For a good portion of the Foundation’s history, Williams recalls, “We were like lots of foundations of our age, a foundation that wrote checks once or twice a year in lots of instances to the same things. People knew how to find us. It wasn’t like we wanted our name on anything in order to be found. We weren’t the type that wanted that recognition or publicity.”

After all, as David A. Frueauff, President of the Foundation and Williams’ brother, explains on the Foundation’s web site, “The Trustees of the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation deeply believe that the Foundation is not, nor has it ever been, about us: the Foundation, its staff or trustees.”

For the Frueauff Foundation, the grants are about the mission—the grantees and the communities they serve. To date, the $121 million foundation has made more than $112 million in grants to more than 600 organizations in 29 states in the fields of education, social services, and health and hospitals.

While the Frueauffs were largely satisfied with their public profile, as nonprofits began to express how much the Foundation’s support and partnership meant to them, the Frueauffs became convinced that a higher profile might open up new opportunities to advance their mission. For example, the Foundation began to pursue more matching and challenge grants, putting their name and their wealth behind the fundraising efforts of their grantees.

“In some instances, people just aren’t asked [to donate], or the same people are asked over and over again,” Williams explains. “And then there are folks that don’t contribute because they don’t think they can contribute enough.” A matching grant changes all that, she says. The Frueauffs’ vote of confidence encourages others to give, allowing the grantee to attract new donors and volunteers. Donors who may not think they have enough to give suddenly do. Their generosity will be matched by the Frueauff Foundation and bring the nonprofit that much closer to their fundraising goal. “In a state like Arkansas,” declares Williams. “That’s a big deal, a huge deal.”

In 2000, the Frueauff Foundation launched its website. In developing the site, Williams recalled her experience as a fundraiser: “What information was I looking for when looking at a website?”

The site includes information about the foundation’s history, what it funds and how to apply for funding. The site also includes a section called “Spotlight on Giving” that features success stories such as the foundation’s life-saving work in support of children’s hospitals, among other critical initiatives.

The web site allowed the Frueauffs to more efficiently respond to grantseeker requests for information. But it also had the effect of attracting many more proposals.

“I think we still, even today, take a deep breath,” Williams laughs. “We still kind of gasp, ‘Oh, gosh, what does this mean? How much will our phone ring now?’”

“At one point, my mom had come in to my office close to our deadline with just a huge pile of letters of inquiry,” Williams remembers. “I had been taking them to bed at night and doing responses via email from bed, just to stay caught up. And Mom said, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we going to do about this?’”

“And I said, ‘Well, this is our job. This is what we do. Nonprofits are supposed to find us.’”

For Williams and the Frueauff family, the question of how high a profile to have, it’s very simple: “If using our name helps further a cause, then use it.”

The mission of the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation is to improve the lives of those in need by awarding grants to non-profit organizations in the areas of higher education, social services, and health and hospitals. You can learn more about the Frueauff Foundation at its website.