Friends Focus highlights updates from members of our Friends of the Family network and their cutting edge work. This month features updates from Heising-Simons Foundation; Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation; The Lilly Endowment; The Ruderman Foundation; Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation; Philanthropy Northwest; First Peoples Worldwide; The William G. McGowan Fund; and Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

Are you a current Friend or Leadership Circle member of NCFP with an update or good news about your foundation that you would like to share with Family Giving News readers? Please email us. Interested in learning more about the families involved in NCFP's Friends of the Family network? Go here.

Heising-Simons Foundation brings start-up mentality to foundation work

Since donor couple Elizabeth Simons and Mark Heising formalized their philanthropy a few years ago, the Heising-Simons Foundation has moved fast, building a team of 23, setting up a 10,000-square-foot office in Los Altos. It’s a lot like another type of fast-growing enterprise, in fact. “We’re in Silicon Valley, so I view this as another startup,” says CEO and President Deanna Gomby, who took the helm in 2012 following a run at Packard Foundation and then worked as a consultant. “And there’s an exhilaration about being in a startup.” The funder awarded $23.5 million in 2013, up to $42.8 million last year, anticipating another increase this year. And there’s no signs of slowing down, as the couple just announced they’ve signed the Giving Pledge. Driven by active donors and leadership hailing from some West Coast philanthropic heavyweights, the foundation is bringing that enthusiasm of a new project to some daunting issues—education, science research, and climate change—and trying to find fresh approaches that are rooted in the latest research.

Walnut Creek Citizen, and NCFP friend & Board Member, Kathleen Odne, receives 2016 Citizen of the Year award

Much to the relief of Kathleen Odne, there will be no ticker tape parade on Main Street to celebrate her recent recognition by the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce as 2016 Citizen of the Year. Odne was honored May 4 at the Chamber's 90th Anniversary Year luncheon. "I felt dumbfounded, then sheepish," she said, about finding herself on the opposite end of the award distribution chain. As executive director of the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, Odne is more accustomed to doling out grants and honorable mentions than to receiving them. "Through my work with nonprofits, I know that there are many, many other people who quietly and honorably do great work in the community without recognition," she said. "I share this with them."

Lilly Endowment Reports on Grants Embracing Tradition, Engaging New Ideas

J. K. Lilly Sr., who founded Lilly Endowment Inc. in 1937 with his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., encouraged leadership that was conservatively progressive: an approach that valued tradition and the lessons it offered, while seeking continuous improvement. Nearly 80 years later, the Endowment still strives both to honor tradition by supporting enduring institutions and to stay alert to changing dynamics and needs that call for innovation.  These contrasting convictions are reflected in the Endowment’s 2015 Annual Report, “Embracing Traditions. Engaging New Ideas.” The report highlights how Endowment grants are helping organizations use the lessons and results from earlier efforts to develop new ways to expand their impact and improve effectiveness. 

The Ruderman Foundation's Advocacy in Action

The movie Me Before You has caused immense controversy even before hitting movie theaters June 3, 2016. The Ruderman Foundation has been incredibly vocal over its disgust of the film's message, which suggests that people with disabilities are better off committing suicide, as well as the choice to cast an able-bodied actor for the lead character who is a quadriplegic. Foundation President Jay Ruderman was interviewed by CBS affiliate WBZ Radio, as well as quoted by The Washington PostThe Boston GlobeEntertainment Weekly and Cosmopolitan concerning these factors. Additionally Jay wrote an op-ed in Boston Magazine laying out the need for change when it comes to the casting of characters with disabilities and the under-representation of actors with disability in Hollywood.

Philanthropist Marjorie S. Fisher passes away at 92


Philanthropist Marjorie Switow Fisher, widow of the late Detroit industrialist and philanthropist Max M. Fisher, died June 12, 2016 at her home in Palm Beach, Fla. She was 92. After the death of her husband of 52 years in 2005, Fisher became the founding chair of the foundation, whose current assets are $250 million. During her six years at the helm, the foundation committed more than $70 million in grants worldwide. Among those issues she was personally most committed to were children's dental care in Palm Beach County, youth employment and blight removal in Detroit and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Philanthropy Northwest launches the Momentum Fellowship

There’s no denying the power of purse strings. Those who control money control much of the world. And that’s as true for charity work as it is for politics or business. Here in Seattle, home to powerhouses like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we understand the global influence of foundation giving. But despite its scope, philanthropy remains largely white. A recent study found only 8 percent of CEOs and 17 percent of “senior executive staff” working at charitable foundations are people of color. “There’s not a pipeline for people of color to enter the field of philanthropy,” says Sindhu Knotz of Philanthropy Northwest, a Seattle organization that does philanthropy consulting for corporations and foundations. “It’s traditionally a very white field.” In response, Philanthropy Northwest has launched the Momentum Fellowship. The program aims to prepare professionals from underrepresented communities for careers in the philanthropic sector through mentorship, training and short-term salaried positions at existing foundations.

The William G. McGowan Fund is on the hunt for collaborators

A great collaboration can make things bigger and better than you ever thought possible. "That's what's happened in recent years, as we've partnered with large and innovative groups," notes McGowan Executive Director Diana Spencer. "And we're always looking for more such opportunities." Curious? Consider the $3.7 million in grants made through The Early Education Funders Collaborative, a Kansas City collaborative, just this year. Or take a look at the Fund's work with the American Heart Association in dozens of daycare centers, helping kids eat right and grow up healthy. Both successes appear in the McGowan Fund's new gallery of press releases and grants, called Our Stories.

Sylvia Yee to Step Down as VP of Programs at Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

haas sylviaSylvia Yee will be stepping down at the end of August as Vice President of Programs with the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. A brilliant and committed champion of equity, opportunity and social justice, Sylvia has served the Fund and the causes it supports for 23 years. From the very beginning of her time here, she played an indispensable role in the evolution of the Fund’s work and the growth of the ambitions and reach.

First Peoples Worldwide plans to close over the course of this year

First Peoples Worldwide was first developed in 1997 by Cherokee social entrepreneur Rebecca Adamson. The organization focuses on funding local development projects in Indigenous communities all over the world while creating bridges between communities and corporations, governments, academics, NGOs and investors in their regions. Adamson released a statement recently on the closing of the organization over the next year, “My entire life I have held the belief that Indigenous Peoples' ways of being provide answers to the problems societies face today. We have achieved what First Peoples Worldwide was created to do–create change, inspire the next seven generations and promote our mission to ensure the power is within our communities... ” (To read more please click the link above) 

We offer special thanks to our Friends of the Family and Leadership Circle funders who support and sustain the work of NCFP. Our Leadership Circle recognizes a special group of our most generous supporters. Our Friends offer continuing support for our work, ensuring that future generations of donor families can access the best possible resources for sound decision-making. See a complete list of NCFP Leadership Circle and Friends of the Family. Or, for more information, please contact Maureen Esposito at 202.293.3276 or at maureen@ncfp.orgSpecial Thanks: NCFP Friends and Leadership Circle members