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.


Family Foundation Co-Invests with Corporate Funders and Partners with a Large Academic Institution

Guest post by Kathleen Odne, Executive Director of the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation and NCFP Board Chair

An unlikely collaboration has resulted in the Mathematics Achievement Academies. An intensive multi-year program designed to assist in preparing underserved students for college-preparatory mathematics, the Mathematics Achievement Academies (MAAs) provide interactive classes and activities for high school and middle school students that emphasize collaboration, creative thinking, and logical reasoning. They cover Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II.

Rather than relying on remediation to fix math problems for students who never learned the subject properly in the first place, the MAAs provide rigorous preparation by providing an intensive summer preview of the course material students will face in the upcoming school year, along with innovative teacher professional development methods to support student success. Developed by California State University East Bay (located in Hayward, California) in collaboration with the California Mathematics Demonstration Center, the MAAs are made possible through the generous support of the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation and Chevron, USA, Inc., an innovative partnership between a family foundation and a corporate donor that underscores their shared commitment to improving educational outcomes among underserved student populations in the urban San Francisco East Bay Region.

Findings from the evaluation of the 2012 MAAs support the conclusion that the program is having a positive impact on average student growth in content knowledge across all areas. A record number of students – more than 550 – completed the academy. Algebra content knowledge grew from a mean of 40% to 52%. For geometry, it grew from 30% to 39%; and for advanced algebra from 31% to 44%. Even if students attend only one year of summer academy, the algebra results indicate that the summer academy approach is far more effective is reducing downstream remediation.

Excerpted from the January 27, 2014 Ruderman Family Foundation press release.

In continuing its commitment to and advocacy for inclusion of people with disabilities into society, the Ruderman Family Foundation (RFF) announced on January 27, 2014 that it will award the inaugural Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion to Dr. Michael Stein, Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. The award recognizes an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish world and the greater public. The $100,000 award is based on past achievements and the potential for future contributions to the field. Hear what Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, had to say about the creation of the award:

“Our foundation decided to establish an award in my father’s name to remember his values and work which has touched so many lives. Those who knew my father agree that what drove his interest in disability inclusion was a bedrock commitment to fairness: he fervently believed that people with disabilities were not getting a fair shake in the Jewish community or in society at large. It was his belief that everyone deserves to be treated fairly that has inspired our mission to work toward the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our community. We are honored to name Michael Stein as the first recipient of the Morton E. Ruderman Award because his life’s work encompasses the values my father believed in. I know that my father would have liked him.”

“Inspiring leaders can strengthen an entire community by valuing each person’s contributions. My father was one such leader; now the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion honors his legacy by celebrating one outstanding leader whose lifetime achievements inspire others towards greater inclusion,” said Jay Ruderman. 

Read more about this inaugural award here.

Graustein Memorial Fund Appoints New Executive Director

The Trustees of the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund have selected R. David Addams to be the foundation’s next executive director. He will begin on March 3rd, when the current executive director, David Nee, retires after 20 years in the position. Hear what longtime NCFP friend and the Memorial Fund’s Lead Trustee Bill Graustein had to say about their new hire.

“I am delighted that David Addams will be joining the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund as Executive Director,”  “Throughout his career David has worked across boundaries to build relationships, resolve conflict, and increase opportunity. I look forward to bringing his experience and skills to the Memorial Fund’s continuing work to support Connecticut communities in analyzing, reflecting, and acting on behalf of young children. I am confident communities will find David a strong ally in bringing their yearnings for children’s future to bear on the shaping and implementation of policies and plans. I am also confident that our institutional partners will find him an insightful and respectful colleague.” Read more. 

John and Wauna Harman Foundation Move Beyond Checkbook Philanthropy

Guest post by Julie Berrey, Trustee of The John and Wauna Harman Foundation

The John and Wauna Harman Foundation recently held its first retreat to establish the Foundation’s values and vision. This is the latest step in a multi-year effort to move the Foundation from a simple check-writing operation to a more professional and effective philanthropic organization. Over Thanksgiving weekend 2013, the family met in Napa Valley, California and with the help of a consultant, was surprised to find how closely aligned their values were – across generations, genders, professions, and even political persuasions. The Board members are putting the finishing touches on the values/vision statement, and know that it will guide them for years to come – from grantmaking to succession planning and beyond.

Rasmuson Foundation Reflects on their “Top 10″ of 2013

Excerpted from RFblog: Reflect. Share. Post by Sammye Pokryfki, Vice President of Programs on January 22, 2014.

“As 2014 begins, Rasmuson Foundation staff members take a moment to reflect on some of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of 2013. Were it not for the traditional self-imposed limit of the “top 10,” we likely would have been carried away. It was a very good year…”

  1. 10th anniversary of the Individual Artist Award program.
  2. Won one of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships.
  3. In October, Philanthropy Northwest held its annual conference and membership meeting in Juneau. This was just the second time the conference has been held in Alaska and the first time that most of Rasmuson Foundation staff attended as a group.
  4. Doors opened at two new facilities serving women, children, and families in Anchorage – Covenant House and Catholic Social Services’ Clare House.
  5. The Anchorage Daily News launched the “State of Intoxication” series covering the issue of excessive alcohol use in Alaska.
  6. The Alaska Botanical Garden dedicated Lile’s Garden, in memory of Lile Vivian Bernard Rasmuson, the late wife of Elmer Rasmuson
  7. A record number of Tier 1 grants were awarded this past year – 162 grants totaling more than $3.1 million
  8. The Community Asset Building Initiative welcomed four new affiliates to the Alaska Community Foundation.
  9. The effort led by United Way of Anchorage to improve graduation rates in the Anchorage School District was off to a great start.
  10. Despite the odds Pick.Click.Give spurred more Alaskans than ever (26,093) to demonstrate their generosity by donating more money than ever ($2.4 million) to more nonprofit organizations than ever (471).

Read more.