What inspired you to start this Foundation?
Sheri: Changing outcomes in meaningful and lasting ways. The needs of individuals and my community inspired me – and continue to inspire me every day.
Les: This is the first opportunity Sheri and I have had to create a venture together. We always had been involved in community organizations that fulfilled our individual interests, but the Foundation structure allowed us to be partners in effecting change and ensuring those changes are sustainable.
Why did you choose a model of active philanthropy?
Sheri: We are passionate about the issues we address and our definition of philanthropy is a donation of something greater than just dollars. We want to put all of our resources against the problems we see – not just financial support, but also our time, energy and intellect, as well as our personal and professional experiences.
Les: Everything about our Foundation is collaborative. It starts with how Sheri and I work together, but it incorporates working collaboratively in the community as well. We spend a great deal of time thinking about how and where we can make a real difference. We partner with organizations and other funders to tackle important issues. Our goal is to support programs that not only resolve problems, but that can be scalable and exportable to communities beyond our own.
What role does each of you play in the Foundation?
Sheri: I rely on Les to work with our chosen partners and establish metrics to evaluate our success. He plays the lead in setting goals and working with the organizations to drive results through all of our initiatives.
Les: Sheri and I share responsibility for choosing our projects and shaping our programs. Because we want all of our programs to be able to live on past our direct involvement with them – and to be, in fact, models for other programs – we bring a lot of business discipline to our processes. Sheri is a visionary and is the heart of the Foundation’s efforts. Sheri assesses the community’s needs, and does the research on which organizations have strong leadership and a willingness to work with an active funding partner.
What is the legacy that you ultimately hope to achieve through this Foundation?
Sheri: Our Foundation is about creating change NOW. We feel a great sense of urgency to act quickly. We hope that what we do contributes to real, positive and sustainable change within all our areas of interest.
Les: I learned early on from my grandfather to expect out of life only what I put in. He was an immigrant with no formal education, but he taught me probably the most important lesson that anyone can learn. He taught me to believe in myself and my ideas. And next he taught me that if you have a good idea and commit to it, others will value it and support you in making it a reality. That’s what this foundation is about. Ideas. Commitment. Collaborative action. Results.