April 13, 2020 (Gig Harbor, Wash.) – Today, The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) announced a $1 million grant to the Pierce County Connected Fund to help Pierce County residents impacted by COVID-19 with urgent human service needs, and $670,000 in unrestricted general operating support to 26 organizations within its Environmental Education fund, which focuses on fostering the next generation of conservation stewards across Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Thurston and Pierce Counties. These announcements were accompanied by an additional COVID-19 grant that supports increased rapid testing capabilities as well as a new impact investment strategy for the Foundation.
As part of the Pierce County Connected Fund, TRFF joins other regional funders to help provide urgent human service needs including food, shelter and housing, first responder childcare, eldercare, and support for vulnerable children and families in the region.
“The Russell Family Foundation has been investing in Pierce County for over 20 years,” said Holly Powers, TRFF Senior Program Officer. “This moment calls for a bold response to support our most vulnerable community members experiencing food insecurity, housing instability and other impacts from COVID-19. We are confident these funds will be rapidly deployed for the greatest needs through the Pierce County Connected Fund.”
In line with this response, TRFF is granting Tacoma-based RAIN Incubator $25,000 to provide increased regional testing capacity for COVID-19. RAIN will employ biotechnology researchers and train students and those in workforce transition to help run assays and assist in managing testing supplies. The Foundation is also one of many foundations across the country to sign the Council on Foundations’ Philanthropy’s Commitment During COVID-19 Pledge, which commits to loosening restrictions on grant funding during this pandemic.
As an example of the pledge, following the emergence of COVID-19, TRFF quickly converted a slate of Environmental Education grants – ranging in size and scope from $7,000 to $40,000 – to unrestricted general operating funding to help meet grantees’ highest needs to stay active and operational. Of these 26 grants, 18 were initially planned as project initiatives focused on immersive outdoor learning opportunities, environmental summer camps, internships and more.
“Now, more than ever, we must emphasize flexible, adaptive grantmaking that responds to changing needs and truly supports communities in these unprecedented times,” said Fabiola Greenawalt, TRFF Program Officer. “As families and kids stay home, environmental education looks more virtual and remains an important part of the learning curriculum. The model has changed temporarily, but it’s vital that our grantees remain able to provide environmental learning opportunities to young people and communities in our region. We are proud to support them where their needs are greatest.”
Additionally, TRFF is investing $5.1 million in the Calvert Emerging Markets Equity Fund, which invests in companies that comply with certain environmental, social and governance standards and average 91% fewer carbon emissions than other companies in emerging markets; and granting $30,000 to Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center to help connect underserved youth in rural areas to the environment and their local food systems.
“Our grants and investments in this region all tie back to creating a more peaceful and sustainable world,” said Kathleen Simpson, CFO and Interim CEO of TRFF. “We carefully evaluate all funding opportunities to ensure they align with this vision, and we adjust how we give based on real world circumstances. We believe that adaptive grantmaking, trust-based giving and values aligned investing are critical strategies for philanthropy, especially right now.”
26 Environmental Education grantees to receive unrestricted funding includes:
- After-School All-Stars Puget Sound, $25,000
- Big City Mountaineers, $25,000
- Camp Fire Central Puget Sound, $15,000
- Camp Solomon Schechter, $7,000
- Centrum, $15,000
- Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group, $30,000
- Foss Waterway Seaport, $40,000
- Friends of North Creek Forest, $40,000
- Great Peninsula Conservancy, $25,000
- Green Plate Special, $25,000
- Harbor WildWatch, $40,000
- Mount Rainier Institute – University of Washington Foundation, $40,000
- Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, $25,000
- Nisqually Indian Tribe, $20,000
- Northwest Maritime Center, $15,000
- Ocean Foundation, $25,000
- Pacific Shellfish Institute, $13,000
- Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation, $25,000
- Port Townsend Marine Science Center, $20,000
- Puget Sound Voyaging Society, $20,000
- Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, $30,000
- SEA Discovery Center Western Washington University Foundation, $25,000
- UW Botanic Gardens, $20,000
- Vashon Nature Center, $20,000
Washington Future Farmers of America Foundation, $30,000
- Wild Society, $20,000
About The Russell Family Foundation
Founded by Jane and George Russell in 1999, The Russell Family Foundation provides a way for their extended family to make a positive impact in the community. The foundation does so by funding local, regional and global change through community investment in causes including grassroots leadership, environmental sustainability and global peace. The foundation applies its values of integrity, mutual trust, constructive communication, lifelong learning and courage to all its work with a focus on place-based philanthropy particularly in the Puget Sound region. For more information, please visit www.trff.org and on Facebook.