The Russell Family Foundation Announces CEO Transition in 2019

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After nearly 20 years, Foundation CEO Richard Woo will make way for new leadership to carry the organization and its priorities forward; Board begins search for new CEO

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The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) announced today that 2019 will be Chief Executive Officer Richard Woo’s final year of service and leadership with the Foundation after nearly 20 years of working to protect the environment and empower Pacific Northwest communities. This announcement comes early in the year to increase transparency during the transition and foster collaboration between staff, the board and community partners as Woo opens the door for new leadership to carry TRFF’s priorities forward. The search for the next CEO is underway.

“For nearly two decades, Richard dedicated himself to establishing The Russell Family Foundation as a regional and global changemaker,” The Russell Family Foundation’s Board President, Eric Russell, said. “His humble leadership rooted the Foundation team in integrity, relationships and lifelong learning. Our staff, board members and community partners work to exemplify those same values each day, and we are excited for the next visionary leader to build upon this legacy and guide the Foundation into the future.”

TRFF was established in 1999 and founders, Jane and George Russell, along with their family, brought Woo on board as CEO in 2000 to build a new philanthropic enterprise together that embodied their philosophy of trusting in the beginner’s mind and learning by doing—values that remain a stronghold within the Foundation today. To date, under Woo’s leadership and collaboration with the Board of Directors, TRFF has granted approximately $130 million in support to hundreds of community groups and individuals who share in TRFF’s vision of a sustainable and peaceful world for people, places and communities. TRFF has pursued impact investing for the past 15 years and was an early adopter and original signatory of the Divest-Invest Philanthropy movement in 2014.

Some of The Russell Family Foundation’s accomplishments during Woo’s tenure include:

  • In 2018, reaching almost 75 percent mission-aligned investments in the Foundation’s endowment, up from seven percent four years prior; all while beating its five-year blended benchmark by nearly three percent.
  • In 2012, launching the Puyallup Watershed Initiative (PWI) as a new model for community-centered change to enhance the environmental and social health of the Puyallup River watershed that stretches from Mount Rainier to the Puget Sound. In 2018, TRFF transitioned PWI from an initiative of the Foundation to its own independent nonprofit. Over the past six years, the PWI has catalyzed the start-up support from the Foundation and leveraged an additional $61 million of project funding from public agencies, private foundations and local levies into watershed work.
  • Since 2004, welcoming eight classes of Jane’s Fellows, people in Pierce County who are willing to lead community change even without formal job titles, institutions or structures. Graduates of the program now represent a powerhouse of diverse grassroots leadership.

The board has initiated the search process to identify TRFF’s new CEO and has retained the firm Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, LLC to assist in its efforts. Woo expects to support the Foundation over the remainder of 2019 to maintain its current portfolio of work and will leave at year’s end, unless a successor is on board sooner. Additionally, he will remain engaged with the philanthropy field on issues inspired by his Foundation experience such as impact investing, family philanthropy and community-centered change.

“The Russell Family Foundation is committed to listening, learning and humble leadership, and I’ve sought to guide the Foundation in the same manner during my time as CEO,” said Woo. “We believe effective leadership grows from first listening, then learning, followed by acting in concert with others—and repeating the cycle. When all voices of the community are heard and people see their ideas built into collaborative solutions with the support of Foundation resources, they embrace the responsibility for their shared actions. That leads to change that is more fair, equitable and lasting.”

For more information on the search for a new TRFF CEO, please email
TRFF-CEO(at)nonprofitprofessionals.com.

For updates related to this milestone year at TRFF, including activities and tools for partner organizations and community members, visit trff.org or TRFF’s Facebook page.

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 http://www.trff.org and on Facebook.

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Aaron Blank
The Fearey Group
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