Board Vice Chair, Nathan Cummings Foundation
Trustee, Nathan Cummings Foundation
DWM: As I recall, the board recommended grants were put into place so that every member of the foundation could recommend a grant that was not necessarily in one of the four program areas. The four program areas are Jewish life, the environment, the arts and health. If they had a passion for something outside of those four program areas, something specifically in their own community to bring philanthropy closer to home, it provided that opportunity. So at this point it’s roughly $50,000 per trustee and then a different number depending on the associate level with the message that it’s not the dollar amount, it’s actually the impact of the grant.
RD: I’m particularly passionate about an issue (the sexual exploitation of women) that’s not within the core program areas and what’s been amazing for me about the board recommended grants committee and the program is that it’s given me the ability to really support things that I care about in a way that’s meaningful. And so really I’m the only, I think, consistent funder in the country that’s helped build this movement that’s really shifted and changed the lives of vulnerable individuals in the United States and without the board recommended grants, those programs would probably still be very underfunded and by the Nathan Cummings name being now associated with some of these non-profits they’ve been able to leverage that to get other funding and have really been able to grow in their capacity to make change. So it’s been really wonderful for me to see how a small amount of money can help be that seed growth that a non-profit needs to kind of make the impact that they’re desiring to make. And one of the reasons I love chairing board recommended grants is you really get to see what it is that drives people, what it is that makes people want to be part of a social justice community and I think that it’s a real privilege to get to be at a leadership position to help enable the systems that get people what they need to recommend their grants and to follow through on them.
DWM: The board recommended grants I think, have encouraged people to continue participation, because not everybody in their own charitable existence is able to give $50,000 worth of funding to organizations of their choice. I think that the voice of the foundation should change with the constituents of the foundation. And I think the current composition of the program areas reflects the prior generation and I think administration of the foundation has prevented modification of that and I think it really speaks tothe fourth generation of the Nathan Cummings Foundation to strongly encourage the older people who sit around the table to hear you and to understand that it is possible that those four program areas no longer resonate with you. The world’s changing and perhaps those four program areas are not the way that we should move into this next piece of history of the Cummings Foundation.