chapter-2Year in Review

The Surdna Foundation Board and Staff began 2009 with a real sense of momentum. We developed a new mission statement focusing on fostering just and sustainable communities, bringing a sense of cohesion and purpose to our work. Momentum also came from an external environment where our partners were flush with optimism that many issues we have been working on for ten and twenty years might hit tipping points towards rapid reform and resolution.

Since October, staff in each of our three new programs has been hard at work building new alliances with other foundations, with grantees, and with experts in the field. This work has been energizing, an injection of ideas and possibilities against the backdrop of a toxic political environment and economic distress being felt across America. Since we announced our new mission, it has been remarkable just how our message of the interconnectedness of economic, environmental, and cultural issues within communities resonates with the approaches of other leading organizations in the U.S. Surdna sees great possibilities ahead for transformative action.

Part of what makes the Surdna Foundation unique is that it remains a family foundation, even now five generations removed from the founding donor. This past year was our 92nd year of operation, and the foundation’s directors are still primarily members of the Andrus family that established the foundation in 1917. The fact that this is a family foundation has a profound impact on the way we develop strategy here at Surdna. The board of directors is very closely involved in shaping the direction and scope of our work, and board and staff collaboration remains a cornerstone of our method. During the summer of 2009, the foundation established board-staff working groups to carefully examine our emerging new programs and to work together to identify the most pressing issues to pursue and problems to solve. This kind of deep collaboration resulted in a growing consensus about the way forward into the next chapter of Surdna’s philanthropy. The new mission’s focus on just and sustainable communities is a reflection of the underlying values of the institution and the Andrus family, which we believe will give us shared sense of purpose as we tackle these difficult issues.

We couldn't have been more pleased by the reception that this new mission and direction got from our partners across philanthropy and the non-profit community. But we realize that a freshly minted mission and a set of new programs are only as good as their impact on the issues we care about. We recognize that the hard work translating mission into action is still ahead of us. Our program staff are building out these new programs, working together as never before to find areas of common interest and investment, and seeking through our sharper focus to deepen our impact. Over the coming months, we will be releasing several new grant guidelines that reflect this thinking and provide aroad-map to potential grantees as to how to work with us.

We believe very strongly in learning as we go. So as we begin work in these three program areas, we anticipate that our grantees will help us see where our greatest impact can be and that this learning will shape our strategy on an ongoing basis. In addition, we recognize how quickly the context for our work can change. The last two years, with the rush of energy surrounding Barack Obama's election to the presidency and the sudden and deep economic recession, we learned just how little we control these fundamental shifts in our society. But as a foundation, we remain attuned to these changes, and we understand that our strategies need to evolve and adapt as we learn and as the environment within which we work shifts.

We look forward to working with the many partners and grantees in the coming year, learning from each other and adapting to what is bound to be a dynamic and somewhat unpredictable social, economic, and political landscape.

Phillip Henderson
President
Josie Lowman
Chair

The new mission's focus on just and sustainable communities is a reflection of the underlying values of the institution and the Andrus family, which we believe will give us shared sense of purpose as we tackle these difficult issues.