How did you first get involved with the Andrus family philanthropy programs?
I was introduced to family philanthropy at a young age by my father. He often spoke about John Andrus’ legacy and his intention to create something meaningful for family members to remain involved in important causes. My father served on the boards of several Andrus-related institutions, so as early as I can remember, I was brought into this world. I was taught about the history of these organizations, John Andrus’ legacy, and his family’s commitment to those principles. I’ve been formally involved with Andrus programs since around age 12. Now, being a board member, I’m really getting to actualize the values I’ve grown up with.
Tell us a bit about your experience at recent AFF in-person events.
Attending events with Surdna and AFF has allowed me to meet some of the incredible teams doing impactful work in communities. I am now more mindful of the range of perspectives and aim to be more open-minded to really understand what’s happening on the ground.
How has your view on abolition changed since joining the AFF board?
What’s changed is my knowledge of the facts around the effectiveness of these systems, their history and origins, and who created them. When speaking with people on the issues AFF focuses on, I no longer lead with opinion. Instead, I start with questions on their perspective: What value does the current system create for you and others (safety, deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, etc.)? Do you believe it is achieving these goals? That typically sets up a great conversation where we can focus on metrics, particularly around recidivism and community alternatives, to show that there indeed is another way.
“Abolition” is a radical term – tearing down systems entirely. Before joining AFF, I likely would have resisted the word. But I’ve learned more about why that language is used on the ground – the years of frustration with failed reform attempts. While “abolition” may seem overly strong to some, it’s essential to remain open to the possibility that it is the most necessary and useful word. We have to understand why language like that resonates with those doing the work on the ground. It’s incredibly important to listen and be open to diverse perspectives.
What are your goals and hopes for your time on the AFF board?
I want to learn more about how we can be most effective as a board in supporting the work, including best practices around concepts like trust-based philanthropy. I aim to learn and implement practices to enable the team to do their best work. I also want to figure out our true purpose as a board, beyond traditional fiduciary responsibilities. How do we create the most effective relationships and systems to support the staff and grantee partners? I want to build incredible relationships within the board and with the team and grantees doing the on-the-ground work. If we focus on accomplishing our mission, the rest should fall into place.
What advice would you give to future board members?
Don’t be afraid of what you can bring to the table. We all have something unique to offer, whether perspectives, skills, or ambition to do the work. Focus on listening to and empathizing with the voices in the room and ecosystem. Dive in to build relationships across the board, staff, and partners. Being on the AFF board is a unique opportunity to understand what’s happening beyond what you’ve traditionally been exposed to. When opportunities arise, represent the impacted individuals and those doing the work as best you can. Extend opportunities outward beyond the family. We all grapple with legacy, but we can still show up and make a difference.