Friends Focus is a special feature of Family Giving News that highlights members of our Friends of the Family network and their cutting edge work with family foundations and advised funds. Are you a current Friend of the National Center and have an update or news about your foundation that you would like to share with Family Giving News readers? Email us. Interested in learning more about Friends of the Family? Go here.

In Memoriam: Margaret Ann “Ranny” Riecker


This is an excerpt from her obituary in the Midland Daily News. Ranny Riecker, president of The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, passed away at the age of 80 in Midland, Michigan. She was a granddaughter of Herbert and Grace Dow, who founded Dow Chemical Co.  Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Co., issued the following statement commemorating Riecker: “As the granddaughter of our company’s founder, Ranny Riecker was an integral part of the Dow family through her entire life, devoting unrelenting leadership to her family’s foundation. She demonstrated her utmost tenacity towards improving the lives of Michigan’s people that will have a lasting legacy for past, present and future generations”.

Jenee Velasquez, executive director of foundation, said she came to her position because of Riecker. “We shared a love for the people of Midland, economic development and education,” Velasquez said. “She taught me that it is people, not money, that solve problems. Her work in philanthropy enabled smart people with innovative ideas to transform lives. “Her skillful ability to gather diverse stakeholders to tackle seemingly impossible problems was legendary. I learned from her every day and am among those that will miss a great mentor and gracious friend,” Velasquez added. “On behalf of the trustees, staff and volunteers at The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, I offer humble gratitude for her steadfast leadership throughout her 51 years of volunteer service.” Read More.

Pierce Family Foundation gets Recognition for Leveraging Small Assets to Make a Big Impact


The Wall Street Journal highlighted how “Small Fry Family Foundations” have been effective “by pinpointing specific needs, sometimes local or largely unacknowledged, that no one else is angling to support.” The following is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal. In Chicago, the Pierce Family Foundation has turned to the adage that the most efficient nonprofits spend the smallest amounts on fundraising and overhead. The foundation,  mainly supports local nonprofits combating homelessness through what’s known as “full mission funding.” Simply put, the foundation provides unrestricted operating grants—and offers expertise from a team of nonprofit support specialists who can help with technology needs, strategic planning and fundraising.

The foundation’s grants are relatively modest—typically around $25,000. But its information-technology efforts have proved invaluable to a number of groups—including a help desk Pierce oversees that can troubleshoot such mundane yet crippling problems as email spam, which can consume 95 percent of a computer network’s memory. These days, other Chicago-based funders are asking Pierce’s foundation for advice on how to provide their own grantees with similar help. Read More. Read more about their peer skills share program in the FGN article “How do we help the leaders of our grantees find the peer support they need?

Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation Elects 2 New Board Members


The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation has announced the election of two new community board members. Steve Goedeke is an independent impact investment advisor who works with foundations, corporations and nonprofit organizations to integrate their philanthropic and investment goals. He is a Fulbright Scholar and earned an M.P.A. from Harvard. Steve is an adjunct professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business and at the Center for Global Affairs. Steve is a founding member of the Sustainability Practice Network, which seeks to advance sustainable development across sectors and disciplines.


Lenora Suki is a Senior Product Strategist in Bloomberg’s Sustainability Group, with a focus on sustainable finance and an emphasis on Bloomberg’s Environmental, Social and Governance product, and other efforts to enable investors across asset classes to better understand sustainability-related risks and opportunities. She founded Smart Cities Advisors, a firm focused on affordable housing, urban regeneration, and inclusive finance in emerging and developing economy cities. Lenora holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Read More.

Surdna Foundation Announces $18M Program Related Investment Fund


The Surdna Foundation made the following announcement on their website. “The Surdna Foundation’s Board of Trustees has approved the creation of an $18 million Program Related Investment (PRI) revolving fund to support its mission of fostering just and sustainable communities in the United States by using its capital to create economic and social value. The foundation also announced an investment from the Fund to support the growth of regional, sustainable, and just food systems. The PRI Fund allows Surdna to make fuller use of its financial resources by expanding beyond the 5 percent share of net assets, on average, it invests in generating program outcomes. And if the principal from these below market rate investments is paid back, as expected, the foundation could extend its social impact by reinvesting the capital into new PRIs or grants.

The Fund’s creation is the result of a decision by the board of the 97-year old, family foundation with a deep commitment to social justice, to amplify the impact of its work by exploring innovative ways of deploying Surdna’s philanthropic resources including capital, revenue, staff expertise, and leadership.” Continue Reading.