Phil Henderson, Surdna Foundation's President, reflects on the mission, goals, and programs of the social justice family foundation.

From the President

  • Surdna Foundation Seeks New President

    The Surdna Foundation – a 100-year-old, multigenerational national family foundation

    committed to fostering the development of just and sustainable communities in the United States

    – seeks a new President. Based in New York City, the Foundation has assets of $1 billion, a staff

    of 27, and is governed by a board of 13, ten of whom are members of the extended Andrus

    family, descendants of Surdna’s founder, John E. Andrus.

    With an explicit focus on social justice, the Foundation today operates three major grantmaking

    programs: Strong Local Economies, Sustainable Environments, and Thriving Cultures. It has

    recently committed to deploying 10% of its assets to impact investing. The Foundation also sets

    a standard in the field of family philanthropy, demonstrating how the ideals and values of a

    family can be catalyzed and expressed across many generations and family branches.


    Phillip Henderson, a well respected national philanthropic leader, has served as Surdna’s

    President since 2007. Only the second President to head the Foundation since its founding, Mr.

    Henderson built an especially strong collaborative partnership with the Surdna Board. He led the

    Foundation in updating its mission guided by principles of social justice and in sharpening its

    program areas in alignment with that mission. He also worked effectively to nurture and expand

    the activities of the other parts of the Andrus Family Philanthropies, especially efforts to

    encourage next-generation family involvement.


    In Mr. Henderson’s successor Surdna seeks a President who will build upon and extend the

    Foundation’s track record of innovation. The position calls for a leader with creative vision,

    integrity, intellectual breadth, very strong communication and management skills, and deep

    respect for the Andrus family’s role and legacy. The President must relish the opportunity to lead

    within a complex, highly collaborative family-governed enterprise, and to energetically represent

    the Foundation and its mission and values to a wider public.


    Click here for complete position description.

  • Phillip Henderson Announces Transition as President of the Surdna Foundation

    Dear Colleagues,

    At Surdna's early November board meeting, I informed the board of my intention to step down from my post as soon as they have identified a successor.  I am proud of the work we have done at the Foundation since I arrived in 2007, and I believe it is time for me to move on and also time to bring in a new leader to propel the Foundation forward.

    I am very proud to have helped Surdna close out its first century with some notable achievements.  We put pursuing socially just and sustainable communities in the United States at the heart of the Foundation’s mission.  We found our voice in the pursuit of social justice particularly in communities of color across the country.  We made important contributions supporting the rebirth of New Orleans in the decade after Katrina.  We even committed $100 million of our endowment to investments that align with our mission.  And through all this we remain a multi-generational, family-governed foundation with a great many family members steering the Foundation, ensuring that it continues to live up to the vision and values of its founder, John E. Andrus. 

    Over my time here, I have had the privilege of serving alongside colleagues who have helped me learn more deeply about social justice and equity, who have introduced me to amazing leaders and their innovative ideas, and who have helped me grow as a leader throughout these past 10 years.

    Now, as Surdna enters its second century, it is time for new leadership and new vision to build on the excellent work of our board and staff.  While change is never easy, I believe the Foundation is ready for it. I also believe that this change will push the Foundation forward in new and exciting ways.

    The board will launch a national search in early 2018. I will be doing everything I can during this period to create a smooth transition to new leadership. 

    Over the past 25 years, I have worked to empower people and communities, to bolster democratic practice, and to help improve the lives of many in the United States and abroad.  As I move on from Surdna, I look forward to continuing to help make positive social change in the world.  I’m excited about the possibilities before me and to see the great work of Surdna continue under new leadership.

    Sinerely, 

    Phils Signature

    Phillip Henderson

  • A Statement on Charlottesville

    This past year, we have seen political and social norms challenged and often trampled.  We have struggled to keep our bearings and hold to our moral principles. As we have been inundated by the constant barrage of events, media firestorms, and tweets, a tragic and horrible day in Charlottesville provides a chilling moment of clarity and outrage. 

    Let’s be clear -- this is not an isolated incident. It is an extreme expression of the deep-seated racism that has persisted in our culture and institutions since our nation’s founding. 

    A moment like Charlottesville cuts through the noise and reminds us that there is much at stake in this period of upheaval and that there are core principles of justice, fairness, and equality that form the basis, the central idea, of this country. These principles are not only worth fighting for, they are principles that we must fight for.

    Despite the virulent hate on display from the fascist, neo-Nazi groups that converged in Virginia over the weekend, we believe there is widespread eagerness across our society to collectively confront the deep challenges we have -- racially, economically and socially.

    So, what do we do?  We must continue the arduous process of building the America we want and desperately need -- an America that acknowledges and rejects the racism present across our institutions and our norms and lives up to the ideals we espouse, of equality, justice, and freedom.  We believe this is where leaders and leadership matter most.  We can't count on the right words or actions to come from Washington to reset the path of this country. 

    But there are leaders among us.  Leaders of color have long been at the forefront of struggles for racial justice. Young leaders with deep reserves of energy and ideas are hard at work in communities across the country.  We find leadership in our schools and universities, in city, county and state governments, at nonprofit organizations and foundations, and within businesses who have used their resources for social good.   We have seen countless examples in the past year of these leaders stepping forward to both say the right thing and do the right thing, to call out the blatant and the subtle ways in which American institutions are failing to live up to our values and our ideals.

    As a Foundation guided by the principles of social justice, we at Surdna support the work of these leaders to help our communities grow and prosper sustainably, inclusively, and equitably.   We are inspired by the extraordinary and courageous work of the organizations we support and have seen the power of collective action to make change.

    Now is the time for policymakers – those who are speaking out and those who remain silent – to decry hate and violence, and challenge the deep roots of racism that persist in the institutions and laws that govern our country.

    The events in Charlottesville demand that policymakers join the leaders among us fighting for justice and equity to envision and enact policies and practices that create the conditions that respect the rights of all people, and guarantee equity, inclusion, and self-determination for all.

    This will require courage and persistence in pursuit of transformative long-term change.  And as we have witnessed, now is most certainly the time for action.

    Phillip Henderson, President
    Surdna Foundation

Phillip Henderson, President, Surdna Foundation

Phillip W. HendersonA national leader among family foundation executives, Phil Henderson has focused Surdna on collaboration both internally across programs, and externally among funders within the foundation's issue areas. He has committed the foundation to using social justice as a compass to guide the systemic change Surdna aims for in its mission.

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Fostering sustainable communities in the United States — communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.