Chief Executive Officer

 (via Idealist)
The Russell Family Foundation
Gig Harbor, WA, United States
Position Type: 
Organization Type: 
Experience Level: 
Not Specified


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The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) was founded in 1999 by Jane and George Russell to make quiet and lasting change in communities while bringing family together in the joy of philanthropy. TRFF has been stewarded for the last two decades by a multigenerational family and community board and led by current CEO Richard Woo since 2000. TRFF’s reputation for innovation and positive impact in the Puget Sound region has grown to national recognition for groundbreaking collective impact models and breakthrough impact investing practices. As the Foundation builds on this strong and vibrant legacy, it now seeks a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who will embody its values and continue to expand on TRFF’s commitment to innovation in the philanthropic sector, making quiet and lasting investments and partnerships in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

The new CEO will work in close partnership with a family and community board of 14, lead a passionate and committed staff of seven, and further facilitate the refinement and development of the Foundation’s unique portfolio focused on environmental sustainability, grassroots leadership, and global peace. The Foundation’s programs and grantmaking are supported and enhanced by an investment approach and total resource activation strategy that reflects the unique business legacy, expertise, and values of the family. The new CEO will integrate best practices in the craft of philanthropy and the art of multigenerational engagement in connecting the Foundation in meaningful and authentic ways to the communities where it invests. The new CEO will be a seasoned facilitator and entrepreneurial leader who ideally brings vision to and experience with innovative philanthropy. The CEO will be a humble and thoughtful leader with a commitment to lifelong learning and innovation. They will ideally bring some familiarity with the content areas of interest to the Foundation and be a seasoned leader who integrates a values-centered approach. This is an exciting opportunity to lead a family foundation with regional and national reputation in its next phase of mission-focused, community-driven work.

This search is being conducted by NPAG. Application instructions can be found at the end of this document.

Organizational Overview

The Russell Family Foundation was formed in 1999 following the sale of the Frank Russell Company to Northwestern Mutual Life. Jane and George Russell created The Russell Family Foundation with part of the sale proceeds, providing a way for their extended family to make a quiet, positive impact in communities. Over the last 20 years, the Foundation, led by a multigenerational and community board, has successfully carried forward the legacy of Jane and George Russell by focusing on a broad range of issues, both local and global, and by embodying the same cultural values that garnered the Frank Russell Company recognition as one of the best companies to work for in America.

At its inception, the Foundation was endowed at $130M, and since then it has provided over $135M in grants to more than 675 community groups, nonprofits, and grassroots leaders working to strengthen community and protect the environment. Today the Foundation’s endowment is approximately $140M—all of which demonstrates the Foundation’s unique commitment to balancing both impact and perpetuity. The Foundation works collaboratively with community partners and organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest to increase the capacity of those working at the ground level, building community, and promoting collaboration between multi-sector partners to further catalyze change. The Foundation focuses on supporting grassroots leaders and organizations who strive to make a positive impact in the community, on increasing environmental stewardship and sustainability, and on aligning their investments to support these local grantmaking strategies. As the Frank Russell Company was known for its pioneering work in the financial sector, TRFF is known in the philanthropic sector for its innovation and field leadership in impact investing. TRFF is committed to leveraging its resources beyond traditional grantmaking for both financial and social return.


Driven by a mission to invest resources and relationships in grassroots leaders, environmental sustainability, and global peace, The Russell Family Foundation seeks to contribute to a sustainable and peaceful world for people, places, and communities. The Foundation stands as a community partner for grassroots leaders serving locally, nonprofits focused on environmental stewardship in the Puget Sound region, and groups promoting peace and security around the world.

As an organization committed to life-long learning, TRFF is dedicated to applying what it learns from its actions, the work of its grantees, and its community partnerships to improve upon the past. By sharing both its successes and failures, the Foundation hopes to help others do the same and is deeply invested in the values of integrity, mutual trust, constructive communication, life-long learning, and courage. 


The Russell Family Foundation was founded on the principle of “enhancing family and improving community”. Its activities embody these values by focusing on expanding opportunities for people of the Puget Sound region, encouraging community stewardship of the local environment through place-based programming, and strengthening communities with mission-based investing. The Foundation carries out this work through a quiet, community-centered approach that continues the legacy of its founders, Jane and George Russell. The Foundation pairs its $5M annual grantmaking with a portfolio of impact and mission aligned investments and focuses its work on the following areas:

Environmental Sustainability

Environmental Education – Aimed at connecting youth to the environment in ways that inspire them to become environmental stewards and champions, this portfolio supports programs, teachers, and curriculum development that provide students in grades 5-12 hands on experiences in environmental education and stewardship across Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Thurston, and Pierce counties and has awarded more than $12M in grants since 2001.

Puget Sound Portfolio – Investing over $41M since 2001, the Puget Sound portfolio supports organizations that have demonstrated impact on decreasing polluted runoff, promoting green infrastructure, and other key environmental issues for the area. In addition to improving the local environment of the Puget Sound region, this portfolio encourages collaboration between community, nonprofit, and government partners who co-create proposals that are metric driven and value shared learnings.

Puyallup Watershed Initiative – The largest of the Foundation’s portfolios, the Puyallup Watershed Initiative (PWI) began in 2010 as an experiment aimed at investing in the systems that influence one entire watershed with a goal of improving overall water quality. The Foundation has made a 10-year commitment to building a multi-sector, multi-issue collaborative that brings together disparate parts of the community that all have a part in reaching a shared goal. The Initiative is organized into six Communities of Interest (COIs): Agriculture, Active Transportation, Environmental Education, Forests, Stormwater, and Just and Healthy Food Systems. Each COI is comprised of individuals, nonprofits, businesses, and government leaders all collaborating for long-term environmental and social change through collective impact. Now operating as an independent community-driven nonprofit, the PWI has utilized the Foundation’s initial grants and leveraged over $61M in additional funding to date.

The Collaboration Fund – A cross-program collaboration between Environmental Sustainability and Jane’s Fund, this portfolio was formed in 2013 and focuses on leadership development for organizations and individuals working to increase community-driven solutions to address pressing environmental issues in the region.

Grassroots Leadership

Following the untimely death of founder Jane Russell in 2002, the Jane's Fund and Jane's Fellowship Program were created to honor her legacy in the community. Jane’s Fund supports local nonprofits that personify her passion for volunteerism, education, and community purpose. The primary focus of Jane’s Fund grants is in support of homeless youth, scholarships, and leadership development. Jane’s Fellowship Program, now in its eighth cohort, is an effort to support grassroots community leaders through a 15-month leadership experience and connection to the fellow network of nearly 70 program alumni. 

Impact Investing

Complementary to grantmaking and programmatic work, the Foundation furthers its impact by using a mission lens for investment opportunities and decisions. Widely considered ahead of its time, the Foundation began divesting from investments that were not mission aligned in its early years and sought out tools to make more informed investment decisions. The Foundation is proud that it has achieved 75 percent mission aligned investments and the portfolio has outperformed its blended benchmark by 2.6 percent (annualized) over the past five years as of December 2018. More about TRFF’s impact investment journey is found here.

Opportunities and Challenges Facing the New CEO

The new CEO will join The Russell Family Foundation at a critical transition moment as the family engages the next generation of leadership, recommits to the values and spirit of its founding vision, and celebrates Richard Woo’s long and successful tenure as the first CEO from outside the family. The new CEO should expect to engage in the following opportunities and challenges in the first two to three years of their tenure:


Working collaboratively with the Board of Directors and staff, the new CEO will facilitate a process that draws together the family’s philanthropic vision and will bring leadership to the Foundation’s key programmatic and community building initiatives. The CEO will partner individually and collectively with the board and other members of the family in the philanthropic expression of the family’s legacy and values, as well as in the next stage of refining its focus areas. They will lead strategic planning sessions and activities that engage all board members in the Foundation’s initiatives in action and will identify authentic ways to bring board members and community members together to experience the power of social impact through community focused philanthropy. The CEO will lead and promote innovation in the Foundation’s approach by sharing trends, best practices, and sector innovations with the board to ensure TRFF continues to be a humble, yet pioneering field leader.

Programmatic and Community Representation

The CEO will work closely with the board, staff, and community partners to develop an innovative and diverse array of philanthropic initiatives that support the vision and mission of TRFF. They will oversee the development and implementation of an evaluation framework that disciplines progress and inspires a culture of learning and accountability in the Foundation’s goals and strategies. They will identify partners and stakeholders to work with the Foundation to advance an innovation agenda. They will be the public face of the Foundation, representing TRFF in the community and beyond by building relationships with key leaders and stakeholders in support of the Foundation’s mission. 

Board Development and Governance

Partnering closely with the Board Chair, the CEO will support the board in the further development of their deepening knowledge of the craft of philanthropy, integration of innovative community based philanthropic models, and commitment to learning together. They will nurture and facilitate a board culture that thoughtfully onboards and integrates third generation family members with second generation and community board members, facilitate discussions that identify and advance philanthropic initiatives reflective of the founders’ legacy, and further articulate the board’s role in grantmaking decisions. The new CEO will seek opportunities to increase board members’ active connection with TRFF’s work in the community. 

Organizational Management

The CEO will ensure organizational structures, investments, and resources are aligned with the mission and goals of the Foundation. They will build upon a rich culture that inspires creativity, risk-taking, authenticity, and learning. The CEO will lead a staff of seven in a manner that reflects the Foundation’s values for professional development, respect, sharing of successes as well as failures, and joy in the workplace. They will foster open and transparent channels of communication throughout the organization that build a culture of trust and partnership.


While no one candidate will embody all the qualifications enumerated below, the ideal candidate will possess many of the following professional and personal abilities, attributes, and experiences:

  • An entrepreneurial spirit and love of innovation combined with a deep personal and professional commitment to advancing social good while leading with integrity, humility, and a spirit of partnership. 
  • Demonstrated track record of executive board-facing experience and leadership in philanthropy, public service, environmental stewardship, social innovation, financial stewardship or a related field.
  • Successful leadership tenure in a foundation setting and/or collaboration with living donors; familiarity with current trends in philanthropy with a particular expertise in stewarding multigenerational leadership and engagement in a family foundation.  
  • Sophisticated facilitation skills that ensure a diversity of opinions are heard and knit together into a cohesive programmatic vision that builds the tapestry of the family’s philanthropic work; passion for connecting people to the powerful impact philanthropy can have with a community or issue.
  • Well-established credibility and effectiveness in engaging diverse communities and embracing difference in tangible and pragmatic ways; an authentic and sophisticated understanding of leveraging a variety of tools to drive impact.
  • Experience building and leading a high-functioning, diverse team; management savvy to develop a team that balances and effectively supports the CEO’s skill set; commitment to fostering an internal team culture that reflects the Foundation’s core values.
  • Proven expertise working in partnership with others to translate a vision into clearly defined priorities and results; comfort working through iterative design to drive clarity and measure impact.
  • Strong convening skills and an authentic interest in listening to and learning from others; ability to establish trust with a diverse set of stakeholders; a commitment to honoring and elevating community expertise and wisdom.
  • High emotional intelligence and quiet gravitas to effectively represent the family’s legacy and values in the community; the personal presence to speak on behalf of that legacy and the grace to invite others into that shared space. 
  • Demonstrated organizational, financial, and operational management expertise applicable to the Foundation’s asset size and mission; familiarity with the impact investing space and the emerging tools outside of grantmaking that can lead to deeper impact.
  • A commitment to learning and the diplomacy skills required to work at the intersection of family philanthropy and community change.  
  • A healthy sense of humor and appreciation for the creativity, fun, and inspiration that can accompany work in a mission-focused and entrepreneurial environment.
  • Ability and willingness to become an integral part of the Tacoma and Pierce County area.  
  • Advanced degree preferred or equivalent lived experience in a relevant field of service to the Foundation’s work.


More information about The Russell Family Foundation may be found at:

This search is being conducted by Katherine Jacobs, Carolyn Ho, and Chris Cannon of the search firm, NPAG. Nominations, inquiries, and/or applications, including a cover letter describing your interest and qualifications, and your resume (in Word or PDF format), should be submitted to:

The Russell Family Foundation is an equal opportunity employer and proudly values diversity.

Candidates of all backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.