The Roy A. Hunt Foundation

Like many family foundations of its size and age, the Roy A. Hunt Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania faces a number of challenges: carrying on an important charitable legacy while engaging a growing geographically dispersed family, and balancing the diverse interests of that family to make grants that make a difference. It succeeds in navigating these sometimes difficult waters by virtue of its passion for giving and its creativity.

The $88-million Roy A. Hunt Foundation was founded in 1966 by the will of Roy Arthur Hunt, president of the aluminum manufacturing giant Alcoa and son of its co-founder Alfred Hunt.

“It was actually the third foundation that he established, the first being the Hunt Foundation in 1951,” says Beatrice Carter, executive director of the Roy A. Hunt Foundation. “He also established the Alcoa Foundation, which is one of the few endowed corporate foundations in the country. In 1994, the Hunt foundations were merged, and they retained the name of the founder.”

Past and Future

The Roy A. Hunt Foundation gives away more than $3.5 million in grants annually, funding organizations engaged in almost all program areas. The Foundation’s grants are concentrated in the areas of Arts and Culture, Education, Environment, Health, Human Services, and Public Affairs, and within these diverse program areas are several special initiatives in Community Development and Youth Violence Prevention.

Giving formed a great part of who Hunt and his wife Rachel McMasters Hunt were, both personally and professionally, and today the family continues their legacy.

For example, there is the family’s great historical and personal commitment to the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Established in 1961, the Institute is a unique facility for scholarly research in selective aspects of botanical history and art.

Rachel Hunt was an accomplished bookbinder and avid horticulturalist, becoming a member of more than 30 botanical organizations, some of which she helped to found. Her collection of historically significant books and art formed the core of the Hunt Botanical Library and what would become the Hunt Institute.

“There simply aren’t too many places like it in the world,” says Carter.

While the Hunts had their own philanthropic interests, horticulture, medicine, and higher education among them, Roy A. Hunt purposely left the mission of the foundation broad to accommodate future generations’ interests.

“The foundation was established as much as a vehicle to keep the family together as a vehicle for achieving social impact,” says Carter.

For more than 40 years, the Foundation has done just that. Carter is currently looking ahead to the Hunt Foundation’s June meeting when the Next Generation Fund, established in 1999 to engage the fourth generation of the Hunt family, will welcome two new members to its ranks.

“It’s a family tradition now,” says Carter. “We meet twice a year, sometimes more often. The trustees meet in November, just the trustees, but in June, the trustees meet and bring their families. In that way, the fourth-generation cousins get to know each other and begin bonding at an early age. This year, we plan to add some pre-trustee activities to the annual June weekend meeting so that by the time they become trustees, the fourth generation will have had some experience working together as well as playing together.”

“The age range of the current members of the fourth generation is from 21 to 30,” says Carter. “The older ones naturally participate more than the younger ones who are still in school. It’s very hard at that age to have full participation.”

Distance can also make getting together difficult, so next-generation members, scattered throughout New England, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Idaho, meet via conference call prior to the semiannual meetings.

“They make a case for a budget, and a budget is approved every year by the directors for the Next Generation Fund, and that’s what they have to work with,” says Carter. “Last year, it was 5% of the overall grantmaking budget.”

“They work as a group, meet on their own with staff assistance, and attend the semi-annual meetings. It’s about bringing the next generation along to learn about philanthropy and how foundations operate.”

Family and Society

One perennial challenge is how to bring the increasingly diverse interests of the family together to make grants with impact. The trustees include one surviving son of the founder, the founder’s eleven grandchildren, and seven, soon to be nine, members of the next generation. It’s a large board.

“They’re challenged every time they meet,” says Carter. “I think what’s exceptional about the family is that they’re so diverse in their interests and political viewpoints, and they’re able to work through ideological differences and find common ground.”

Among the Hunt Foundation’s trustees are academics, authors, physicians, and activists from across the country and the political spectrum. Trustee John B. Hunt is a Republican legislator in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Marion Hunt-Badiner is an environmental activist, student of Zen, and yoga practitioner. Richard M. Hunt, a former board member of the National Center for Family Philanthropy, is a retired Harvard professor.

“They deal with differences, aiming to achieve consensus, and then come together for a family dinner after a long arduous day’s meeting,” says Carter.

Key to bringing everyone together is crafting of programs and grantmaking opportunities in which there is something for everyone.

The Foundation’s work with the National Parks Conservation Association proved especially exciting and fulfilling as it brought together the trustees’ interests in business, public policy, education, and the environment. A collaboration with the Boston-based Henry P. Kendall Foundation, the grant funded NCPA’s business plan initiative, a joint venture with the US National Park Service which brought in business and public policy school graduate students to help create a budget template that would allow parks to analyze their annual operating and capital expenditures in a new way.

The federal parks budget, for instance, comes in a massive three-ring binder, Carter explains, and the new budget template allowed parks to aggregate that information and apply it to the situation on the ground.

“The participating parks could see, for example, that infrastructure was deteriorating for lack of adequate capital allocations, or that they needed to do more in terms of interpretation, explaining why the park is an important landmark or why it’s there,” Carter says, describing the grant as a real win for all involved.

“The individual parks came away not only with a new understanding of their financial needs but with young professionals who were now committed to the parks and saw them as a good place to work,” she says. “The parks would not otherwise have had business or public policy school graduates working for them helping with budgets and advocacy. They historically were staffed by individuals with specific environmental expertise or simply a love for the outdoors.”

Thus, the Hunt Foundation succeeds in carrying a family tradition into the future, and in bringing a family together to make a difference.

“In the end, they’re still a family,” Carter says. “It’s about philanthropy and it’s about family, and they always keep those two goals before them.”

For more information about the Roy A. Hunt Foundation and its work, visit its website.