A Complex Giving Structure
Enables Quiet Donations
FOSTER FRIESS, who earned a fortune as a mutual-fund manager, and his wife,
Lynn, use a complicated structure for their philanthropy, and
it is difficult to tell from public
documents exactly how much
they are giving away and to
The couple gives through personal funds, the Lynn and Foster Friess Family Foundation,
the Community Foundation of
Jackson Hole, and the National Christian Foundation. “We
shift back and forth according
“Who really cares
what we give money
to in the first place?
Why is that of
interest to anyone?”
to what makes the bureaucracy
flow the best,” Mr. Friess says.
Mr. Friess says the couple’s
donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole has been “depleted to
basically zero in the past nine
years,” from a starting balance
of roughly $26-million.
The Friess Foundation held
assets of $113-million as of April
2009, the latest year for which
data are available. Tax returns
show that from 2007 to 2009,
more than 99 percent of the
$20.1-million awarded by the
Friess Foundation went to the
National Christian Foundation,
one of the nation’s largest providers of donor-advised funds.
Mr. Friess says the National
Christian Foundation provides
valuable research on charities
and handles bookkeeping functions that would otherwise require a larger staff at the family foundation.
Mr. Friess also says he is
comforted that his family and
the National Christian Foundation share many of the same
“We don’t have to worry about
what some of the other founders of major foundations have
had to suffer as they’re rolling
in their graves seeing how their
basic missions have been perverted,” he says.
But Aaron Dorfman, execu-
tive director of the National
Committee for Responsive Phi-
lanthropy a foundation watch-
dog group, says the transfer of
assets from the Friess Founda-
tion to the National Christian
Foundation could theoretically
be a way around federal rules
that require private foundations
to distribute more than 5 per-
cent of their assets each year.
Mr. Dorfman also points out
that it’s impossible to know exactly what Mr. Friess is supporting through the National
Christian Foundation, since the
foundation reports its grants
without linking them to specific
donor-advised funds, including
the fund established by Foster
and Lynn Friess.
“We really don’t have any idea
who the ultimate beneficiaries
are,” Mr. Dorfman says.
Mr. Wills says that any interest Mr. Friess may have in giving anonymously is motivated
by his Christian faith, rather
than a desire to conceal anything.
“Giving anonymously is a
thing that’s favored among
Christians, so that you’re not
trying to get something back—
recognition or accolades—for
what you give,” Mr. Wills says.
“You’re doing it for spiritual
Mr. Friess seems baffled by
all the fuss. “Who really cares
what we give money to in the
first place?” he asks. “Why is
that of any interest to anyone?”
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break just to focus on their own
relationship. Mr. Friess’s son,
Michael, is deaf.
“Foster knows their stress,”
Ms. Schneider says. “He wants
to give them a chance to stay
out late, sleep in, and remember
why they got married.”
Ed Bartolini, a consultant to
the Friess Foundation who has
known Mr. Friess for more than
40 years, says Mr. Friess is also
considering a grant to help con-
struct permanent housing for a
community of 400 deaf people in
Haiti who are currently in tem-
Lynn Friess is a champion of
the National Museum of Wildlife Art, in Jackson. Ms. Friess,
who ended a term on the board
in September, helped start a
$4.5-million drive in 2004 to
eliminate the museum’s debt.
“I called Lynn the ‘energy
chairman’ when she was the
chair of the board,” says Jim
McNutt, the museum’s presi-
dent. “She really puts herself
As for Mr. Friess, friends say
he has strong and controver-
Continued from Page 29
sial views but not a rigid mind.
At large dinner parties, he becomes aggravated by one-on-one chatter and prefers a single
conversation in which everyone
gets a chance to share with the
“Foster was the pre-eminent
growth-stock investor in Amer-
ica,” Mr. Bartolini says. “That’s
all about getting information
and having an open ear.”
After meeting and being im-
pressed by James Nyondo, a
young man who ran unsuccess-
fully for president of Malawi
last year, Mr. Friess began to
take an interest in the African
He has supported projects
to bring fresh water to several communities in Malawi and
also backs entrepreneurial programs focused on raising chickens and sewing.
One of Mr. Friess’s pet causes
in the United States is helping
to spread the model of Good Sa-
maritan Health Services, which
operates a mobile medical van
in Tulsa. The van provides
health services and “transfor-
mational ministry” in several
low-income neighborhoods, says
John Crouch, its founder.
Late Arts Patron Leaves Big Gift
to the Huntington Library
How much: a bequest of at least $95-million
Who gave it: Frances Lasker Brody, whose late husband, Sidney, was
a real-estate developer in Los Angeles. Ms. Brody died last November
at age 93.
Who got it: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, in San Marino,
Calif. Ms. Brody earmarked $15-million for support of the institution’s gardens; the rest will
be used to finance operations over time. The amount of the gift will probably increase once Ms.
Brody’s Los Angeles home, a mid-century modern landmark currently on the market for $21-
million, is sold along with other valuables she owned and the proceeds are channeled to the library.
The donor’s connection to the institution: Ms. Brody was a member of its Board of Overseers for 20 years.
About the donor: Ms. Brody was the daughter of Albert Lasker, who is considered a pioneer
of modern advertising. He was a co-founder of the Lasker Foundation, which honors achievements in treating, understanding, or preventing diseases.
Steven Koblik, president of the Huntington, says Ms. Brody was a formidable woman who was
“raised to be an intellectual and a grande dame.” She was known for her outspokenness. In
1953 she commissioned a ceramic mural from the artist Henri Matisse, and when he sent her
a sketch, Ms. Brody told him he had to do better.
How the gift came about: Ms. Brody didn’t become involved with the Huntington until she
was in her 70s. An avid gardener, she struck up a friendship with James Folsom, who directs
the organization’s botanical gardens. Nine years ago, Ms. Brody told Mr. Koblik she was going
to sell her art collection, which included significant pieces by Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and the
sculptor Alberto Giacometti. Before that collection went to auction in May, the organization
learned it was the sole beneficiary of her estate after her heirs received their inheritances, but
Huntington officials had no idea how much money that would be. In October the Huntington
received $15-million for its gardens as stipulated by Ms. Brody in her trust. And in November
it received $80-million.
Impact of the gift: Mr. Koblik hopes the gift will spur others to give to the Huntington. He
says, “I’m a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all folks. This was a brilliant accident that occurred to us.” —CAROLINE BERMUDEZ
More news about big gifts, including a searchable database of newly announced gifts
of $1-million or more, is available online at http://philanthropy.com/extras.
Send gifts news to email@example.com.