We are pleased to share the second in our occasional new feature for Family Giving News: Friends Focus, featuring brief updates and announcements on the interesting work of family foundations and advised funds who are members of our Friends of the Family network. Are you a current Friend of the National Center with an update you’d like to share with Family Giving News readers? Email us or add a note in the comments section below!

French American Charitable Trust Publishes Special Report Documenting its Spend Out Process and approach to making a difference through community organizing: In April 2011, the French American Charitable Trust (FACT) made final grants to its portfolio of grantee organizations and will close its U.S. program at the end of 2011. To capture and share the core principles and strategies that shaped the Trust’s grant making, and to document what the board and staff learned from its nearly 20-year experience, the Trust recently published a final report Giving More, Making Change: A Journey in Progressive Grant Making, and posted brief videos of two of its featured community organizing grantees: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Communities for a Better Environment.

Roy A. Hunt Foundation Hires Tony Macklin: In December, the Roy A. Hunt Foundation announced that after a nearly six-month search process it had hired Tony Macklin as its new Executive Director, replacing long-time staff leader Bea Carter. Tony previously spent 12 years at the Central Indiana Community Foundation, most recently as its Associate Vice President, and had opened a philanthropy consulting practice in 2008 when he moved to Pittsburgh with his wife, Alexis. Hunt Foundation Board Chair Torrence M. Hunt, Jr. noted, “We are excited about the wealth of experience Tony brings to the foundation as we continue our family-based philanthropy, and particularly as we bring on more members of our fourth generation of trustees.”

Atlantic Philanthropies Announces Resignation of President Gara LaMarche: Gara LaMarche plans to step down on September 1 after five years as president of Atlantic Philanthropies. Mr. LaMarche will take a post as senior fellow at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. The Board has begun the process of identifying a successor. In announcing Mr. LaMarche’s decision and the transition, Atlantic Philanthropies Board Chair Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr. said, “We hired Gara because of his unwavering commitment to elevating the voices of the disadvantaged and vulnerable to bring about major social change in their own lives and the lives of others. Over the past four years, Atlantic has, for example, played an important role in health care reform to address the needs of kids, older adults, and the vulnerable and disadvantaged in the United States; defense of benefits for older adults in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; changes in HIV/AIDS and nursing policies in South Africa; and medical research and public health globally. These accomplishments would not have been possible without Gara’s dedication to the Foundation’s mission.” The Board noted that the leadership transition will not impact the Foundation’s commitment to founder Charles Feeney’s Giving While Living philosophy and engagement with the donor in active and robust grant making during his lifetime, and that Atlantic is still on track to conclude its grant making activities by 2016.

Laying a New Foundation: Lyndhurst Foundation to split and turn control of most assets to new 10-member community board, while creating smaller foundations for branches of family: The Lyndhurst Foundation, which pumped more than $100 million into local education, arts, environmental and community initiatives over the past decade while leading Chattanooga’s downtown revival, will spin off $50 million next year to help start smaller family foundations for each of five grandchildren of Lyndhurst founder and Coca-Cola magnate Thomas Cartter Lupton. While many Lupton grandchildren no longer live in Chattanooga, the family foundation trustees agreed to keep most of Lyndhurst’s assets and focus on the city. Lyndhurst trustee Alice Smith — the oldest daughter of long-time Lyndhurst Chairman Jack Lupton, who died last year — said the foundation changes will bring new community voices to Lyndhurst and should spur even more contributions to family and community causes. Smith and her siblings and cousins who will start up the new foundations have agreed to match the Lyndhurst funds with their own money, although four of those foundations will likely be based in other cities. “We are elated to continue our family philanthropy through new, smaller foundations, both here and in other home cities of the family members, and to nourish new leadership at Lyndhurst,” she said in an announcement. “We have probably ‘broken the mold’ on many things we have done at Lyndhurst in the past, and we may be doing so again. But it is a very invigorating process that we look forward to.” (Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Overbrook Foundation blog covers environment and other grantee issues: The Overbrook Foundation, established in 1948 by Frank and Helen Altschul, describes its mission as “a progressive family foundation that supports organizations advancing human rights and conserving the natural environment.” Over the past three years the foundation has used its foundation blog to share insight and perspectives on the strategies and movements it supports to achieve this mission. Written by foundation staff Elizabeth Miller and Samantha Harvey, recent blog posts have covered topics ranging from the future of nuclear energy to ideas for how to improve local journalism… and everything in between. The blog also features updates on the foundation’s grants in its two primary program areas – human rights and the environment, providing timely and transparent updates on the board and staff’s deliberations and decisions.

“The Foundation decided to start the blog in order to celebrate the successes of our grantees. So much of the news these days impact the work they accomplish and blogging was a great way to stay up-to-date on issues related to the foundation’s work,” says foundation senior program associate Elizabeth Miller. “It’s been a fun way for our staff, board, and the general public to learn about and share the work of our grantees. Unlike some of the other publications the foundation produces (an annual report, a semi-annual newsletter), the blog is a great opportunity for a wider audience to keep up to date on a daily and weekly basis.”

William Penn Foundation presents ideas on “Using Evaluation to Shape Strategy: How Can We Make It Better? Are We There Yet?” In a recent “What We’re Thinking” column, Helen Davis Picher, Director of Evaluation and Planning at the William Penn Foundation, provides a behind-the-scenes look at how the foundation selected specific priorities for its Environment & Communities program area. These priorities evolved from the foundation’s 2001 Strategic Plan, and include promoting policies and practices that facilitate “green infrastructure” approaches to storm water management; and promoting regional policies and institutions that protect drinking water in the Delaware River Basin, particularly Philadelphia. “We try to strike a balance between assessing and refining our grantmaking strategies and giving them enough time to show results,” writes Picher. “We are venturing forward with a more focused and targeted strategy aimed at critical, timely issues in the region.”

Steans Family Foundation VideosSteans Family Foundation features videos of grantees on its website: The Steans Family Foundation has long been an investor in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, with a special focus on early learning opportunities, school readiness, and preparing young people to navigate postsecondary options and life goals. Recently, they’ve added professionally produced video documentaries of selected grantees to their toolbox of strategies for bringing attention to innovative, evidence-based approaches in these areas. The foundation’s website currently features three videos of groups including the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, LEARN Romano-Butler Charter School, and a variety of local organizations working to prepare students for college and other postsecondary opportunities.

Are you a current Friend of the National Center with an update you’d like to share with Family Giving News readers? Email us or add a note in the comments section below!