Behind every environmental win in California are the people who work to make collaboration and progress possible. We couldn’t do what we do every day without folks who are willing to think differently, see possibilities, and make change together. We recently sat down with Jim and Rebecca (Becky) Morgan and their children, Jeff Morgan and Mary Finegan, of the Morgan Family Foundation, to chat about their sustained leadership support over nearly two decades, and to thank them for their partnership as they wind down their organization.
Sustainable Conservation and the Morgan Family Foundation share a commitment to the three E’s – equity, environment, and economy, and to regional approaches. The Foundation has supported all of our programs, especially in the San Joaquin Valley – a very important part of California that does not get near the attention it deserves.
How did you first find Sustainable Conservation?
Although Sustainable Conservation’s work was on our radar of organizations doing good work in California, Jeff brought them to the board’s attention for the Foundation’s grant-making.
How did philanthropy become a family affair?
We arrived in California and worked hard at a time when the tech industry was still new. As a result, we benefitted. We have always had a sense of gratitude about this, coupled with a sense of responsibility to “give forward.”
The four of us decided that giving together would be a rewarding experience, and we decided on some key common interests that we felt would be important areas of focus. During the Foundation’s existence, Jeff and Mary have both raised families, and we have been thrilled to welcome the third generation into our giving. Our second and third generations have contributed their own interests and passions as the years have progressed, but we have stayed true to the original objectives we had for the Foundation.
Why did you decide to support Sustainable Conservation’s work?
We are interested in organizations that impact systems – those that go beyond producing outputs and really get to changing outcomes on a large scale. Sustainable Conservation’s work has positive outcomes for our state’s water system, ensuring that both quantity and quality of water are improved, particularly as it relates to the agricultural industry. Both Jim and Becky come from farming families, and we understand the ways that agricultural practices can be very beneficial or very detrimental to the water and land.
Sustainable Conservation has also worked on regulatory streamlining. As Becky is a former elected official (California state senator), she knows how much time and money can be wasted by inefficient or overlapping regulatory requirements. Your willingness to push through these important but often unseen processes showed us that they had the potential for long-haul effectiveness.
If you each had a personal mission statement, what would it be?
Jim: “To your success.” I often sign letters that way. Providing the circumstances that allow leaders to grow and to do their best work is where I like to focus.
Becky: “Prepare well, work hard, do good.” I often encourage people to step up and get engaged in their communities, regions, states, and world. Leave the world a better place.
Mary: “Empowering good people to do great things.”
Jeff: “Protecting endangered national parks in developing countries.”
Do you have any advice for us, and others, working to grow our community of partners and supporters?
Do meaningful work, and make sure to explain and measure it well. Bring together people across sectors and backgrounds. Chart a course forward that balances economy, environment, and equity.
If you continue to act courageously and smartly, and use your resources to broaden the field of engaged “doers” in the issues that you’ve identified as critical – land, air, and water – people will join you.
We will miss the Morgan Family Foundation dearly, but we’re so grateful for your deep contributions to our mission and growth. Your investment in our programs will continue to benefit California’s people and wildlife.