Shakespeare in the Park was recently notified that we will receive a grant from The Brico Fund! Once we finished jumping up and down, we asked Executive Director Anne Summers if we could chat with her about the Fund and her work there. She was gracious enough to indulge us! Read on to learn more!
The Brico Fund was founded by Lynde Uihlein with the mission to build "the collective capacity of people and organizations to actively and sustainably improve the civic, cultural and natural environments." Brico's specific areas of interest are the Arts, Environment and Democracy.
Anne explained that the spirit of the Brico mission is building quality of life for everyone. They are interested in building organizational capacity, including to broaden access to arts in the community. The organization intentionally works to support art with diversity of reach and location, and socially relevant missions -- especially where Brico's involvement won't overlap with traditional theater/arts funding.
What struck Brico about the “fit” of Shakespeare in the Park into the Fund’s investment areas?
The Brico Fund is increasingly interested in making grants at the intersection of its three interest areas: democracy, environment and the arts. Specifically, to seek out organizations that are already synthesizing those foci. As such, Shakespeare in the Park's populist ethos – reflecting the audience in the production, and intentionally anchoring everything that it does in the artistic and democratic spheres -- appeals to that larger giving philosophy.
What brought you to the field of philanthropy and to Brico?
I was attracted to the ability to use philanthropy as a leverage point for change. The Brico Fund has a particularly "open view" in term of funding. We are willing to innovate and experiment in ways that many foundations are not. Our charge is to help build stronger community and increase quality of life, but in doing that, we have the opportunity to create strategy. While we offer traditional core operating grants, we can also take greater risk outside of the status quo -- to make a statement in the community. Brico is willing to be a trailblazer and a maverick, make mistakes and learn from them in order to improve our grant-making, all in service of knitting the fabric of Milwaukee more tightly together.
What is the greatest challenge of your work at The Brico Fund?
The stereotype that it’s a cushy job – writing checks and sending money. I find it the most challenging and difficult work I've done. Part of that is because grant-making is not only role. There is a lot of sharing of relationships, and serving as a connector within the community.
Another challenge, if you will, is the ability to see the importance of capacity-building in the life of an organization. Without that step up on that front end, in order to enable growth, good ideas wouldn’t get the time required to "figure it out."
And, Brico is always working with our funded organizations to get honest feedback -- both so that we can be a better partner to them, by helping them "figure it out" through our own experiences, but also to make us a better grant-maker. Challenges are expected, and set-backs happen. Our ability to work with our organizations from a position of understanding that in a supportive way, in the end, helps everyone learn how to do what we do better.
At the end of the day, we try to really live our values in the organizations that we fund. HOW and WITH WHOM matter as much as WHAT we do -- being practical about direction. One of the most rewarding aspects is to see the power that even small amounts of money have, especially when we are able to accompany that money with our other relationships, which can magnify effects into BIG results.
Other than yourself (!), who should play you in the feature film of your life?
Morgan Freeman? Gene Hackman? Robert deNiro? People who play characters who have learned a lot in their lives – through mistakes, experiences, successes, are very reflective and open and engaging about that; understated, but play a key strategic role…very real. Those actors seem to play those kinds of parts regularly, so they come to mind.
What Shakespeare character do you most resemble?
Equal parts Titania, Lady Macbeth and Portia? I think?
Tragedy, comedy or history?
Truth or dare?
Taking the time to read a book (the thicker the better)...and eating Oreo cookies.
More about Anne:
An Illinois native, Anne holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Masters of Business Administration degree from Cardinal Stritch University. Prior to coming to the Brico Fund in 2004, Anne held positions as a senior leader in private nonprofit organizations and in the government sector. Her national leadership roles include the board of directors for the League of Conservation Voters, the Youth Engagement Fund and the Funders Committee for Civic Participation. She was a founder and first board chair of State Voices and helped found its Wisconsin affiliate, Wisconsin Voices. In her local community of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she serves on the board for the (Milwaukee) Harbor District, co-hosts the Collaborative Fund to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and previously served on the board of the Donors Forum of Wisconsin.
Anne’s professional and personal values intersect seamlessly, focusing on interdependence, fairness and equality. She has been a pioneer in the field of philanthropy, committed to idea testing, systematic evaluation and impact measurements that demonstrate collective action to create long-term change in communities. With her passion for innovation, combined with a focus on the next generation of leaders, Anne develops and mentors newer leaders across a variety of sectors. Under her leadership, Brico Fund has successfully modeled and led a new way of community investment that maximizes the potential for social change beyond the confines of more traditional philanthropy. She has co-authored and published an article for The Foundation Review titled “Weaving an Impactful Network” that details the Fund’s willingness to test the power dynamic of the traditional funding partnership. A state leader in capacity building of the nonprofit sector, Anne frequently presents and writes on this and other topics in Wisconsin and throughout the United States.
Visit The Brico Fund's website ~ jump straight to the page with the back story of the cavalier boots logo (scroll down)