Starting in early 2009, the Foundation periodically posted letters from its Chair and President outlining steps being taken to address the impact of the global financial crisis on its grantmaking programs (The letters from 2010 and 2009 are below). In October 2009 and, in part, because of the continuing financial downturn, the Foundation began an active strategic planning effort to examine all aspects of the Foundation’s life, with a particular focus on its mission, values and grantmaking. We are writing now to report on the outcomes of our strategic planning efforts and how they will affect our grantmaking over the next several years.
Over the last three years, our investment portfolio experienced significant volatility and we continue to anticipate significant fluctuations in its performance over the coming months and years although we are cautiously optimistic that it will continue to slowly improve in 2011 and 2012. The Board has decided it will counter that volatility by committing the Foundation to a steady level of funding for its Human Rights and Environment Programs through 2012. We expect that by the end of 2012 the Foundation will have weathered the worst impacts of the financial storm and that we will be able to gradually increase our grantmaking levels beginning in 2013. In 2011 and 2012, our grantmaking will remain approximately 30% below its peak funding in 2008.
The Board has revisited the Foundation’s mission and values statements crafted in 2001 and refined them to reflect its current direction.
Mission The Overbrook Foundation is a progressive family foundation that supports organizations advancing human rights and conserving the natural environment.
Values Honoring the vision and dedication of its founders, Helen and Frank Altschul, The Overbrook Foundation:
• Honors its role as a steward of both the public trust and the Foundation's mission • Advances programs ethically, responsibly and respectfully • Is transparent and open • Engages in its work in a deliberate and thoughtful way • Takes measured risks • Employs diverse approaches to seize opportunities and respond to challenges • Supports social justice and environmental sustainability • Promotes advocacy, accountability and reform of institutions and government Program
The Board recently completed the Foundation’s first comprehensive review since 2005 of its Environment and Human Rights Program.
The Foundation’s Environment Program will continue to focus on biodiversity conservation in Latin America and sustainable production and consumption in the United States. In Latin America, its geographic focus will include Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and, in certain circumstances, the nations of Central America. Criteria applied to potential projects will include: potential impact, level of innovation, the opportunity represented in the project, benefit to local communities, climatic implications and the strength of the funded group/leadership to accomplish the work proposed. The Environment Program will continue to seek out efforts that support innovative ideas in sustainability, particularly around the production and consumption of materials. The mitigation of climate change, with a particular focus on energy efficiency, will receive distinct but limited support.
The Human Rights Program will continue to support organizations within the U.S that are advancing the U.S. domestic human rights movement where Overbrook has played a leadership role since 2005. It will also continue its grantmaking to strengthen gender rights in the U.S. where it has a long history of support for women’s rights, LGBT rights and anti-trafficking efforts. Building the reproductive justice movement and advancing marriage equality for same-sex couples will be central elements of the gender rights focus. Media reform and support of non-profit media will continue with support for nonprofit electronic and print media and efforts to reform the media landscape. This represents the Foundation’s contribution to progressive movement building in the U.S. Other movement building efforts not defined as human rights will be phased out over 2011. In the Latin America grantmaking program, the Foundation will continue to support human rights defenders and gender rights organizations.
We will continue to play an activist leadership role in the philanthropic community. Our program officers are heavily involved in organizing and managing funder collaborative partnerships, creating vital new non-profit organizations to advance change and assuming leadership roles in a variety of foundation associations. Through these various efforts, the Foundation believes it is able to influence the direction of significant philanthropic resources to those issues most central to its human rights and environment mission. Moving forward, we will continue using all of these mechanisms to protect and strengthen the fields in which our grantees are active and to learn more about work underway in the Foundation’s fields of interest.
Please note that letters of inquiry and unsolicited proposals will not be considered by the Foundation for funding in 2011 and 2012. Instead, because of the reduced funding available for grantmaking, Foundation staff will invite proposals on a limited basis as opportunities that clearly match the Foundation’s priorities are identified.
We deeply appreciate the difficulties that our grantees continue to face as the nation slowly recovers from the economic downturn of the last several years. Our Board of Directors and staff are sensitive to these challenges and will work diligently to assist our grantees and colleagues as they continue their work.
Sincerely, Kathryn G. Graham, Chair of the Board of Directors and Stephen A. Foster, President and CEO