About the Surdna Foundation
Created by John E. Andrus in 1917, the Surdna Foundation has assets of more than $1 billion and an annual grantmaking budget of more than $40 million. The Foundation has a staff of 25, based in its Midtown Manhattan offices. The Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors that includes fourth- and fifth-generation Andrus family members, as well as non-family board members. The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States, communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, inclusive economies, and thriving cultures.
As one of the oldest family foundations in the country, Surdna is dedicated to ensuring our strategies reflect our longtime commitment to the values of justice, equity, and inclusion.
Furthermore, our ongoing commitment to learning requires constantly examining our own assumptions and having continuous conversations internally and with organizations on the frontlines tackling society’s biggest challenges.
Building on the successes of our ongoing work, we recently set out to examine and refine our program strategies for three reasons:
- First, to ensure we are being as effective as possible with our valuable, but limited, resources.
- Second, to identify shared goals across all of our programs to unite our work and foster collaboration.
- Third, to fulfill our commitment to social justice and a culture of learning.
As part of the strategy-refinement process, we developed an organizational theory of change to:
- Articulate the Foundation’s high-level vision for the change we seek to achieve;
- Unite our programs across shared goals; and
- Identify guideposts to evaluate our work and ensure that all of the Foundation’s efforts—from program-related investments to grantmaking and other initiatives—are demonstrating progress towards these institutional outcomes.
Our theory of change is based on three assumptions:
- First, that historical and structural racial inequities are at the root of the deeply embedded challenges that communities face across America.
- Second, that advancing racial equity and addressing power imbalances are critical to solving these challenges and to achieving a more just and sustainable society.
- And, third, that the best way to address racial inequities and power imbalances is to honor the agency of individuals and communities that are most impacted by injustices. These individuals should be regarded as experts in creating solutions to the systemic issues we aim to solve.
Working from these assumptions, Surdna believes that we can achieve a more just and sustainable society by directing our resources towards grantmaking portfolios that achieve the following three institutional outcomes:
- Democratic Participation: Supporting communities of color and low-wealth communities to utilize their decision-making and political power to enable self-determination.
- Building Wealth: Catalyzing capital to support communities of color and low-wealth communities in their efforts to build and sustain wealth, in all its forms, and economic power to achieve a more just and sustainable society.
- Building Accountability: Investing in the capacity of communities of color and low-wealth communities to hold policymakers and institutions accountable to ensure all community benefits are shared equitably.