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Robert W. Woodruff Foundation

May 2012

The Atlanta-based Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, whose history is tied to the Coca-Cola Company, primarily supports nonprofits located and operating in Georgia. The foundation's president, Russ Hardin, recently became the Foundation Center's new board chair. The Foundation Center asked him:

Question How does your experience as a current board member of three corporations serve you in your work as president of four foundations, and what would you like your colleagues in the field to know about particular strategies that the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has found helpful in pursuing its chosen program areas?

Answer "My corporate board service has been quite useful to me and beneficial to the foundations I serve. At Northwestern Mutual, for instance, I glean insights on governance and investments from one of the most admired companies in the world. In my role as trustee or director, I hope I can deliver value through my own knowledge of charitable giving and the community as well as my legal and investment experience.

"The principal biography of Robert W. Woodruff is titled Mr. Anonymous. The Woodruff Foundation continues to operate in a manner consistent with Mr. Woodruff's values and style. That is, we intentionally deflect attention to our grantees; we do not issue press releases; and we do not publish annual reports. However, we recognize and embrace our responsibility to operate in a transparent manner and to help potential grantees understand our mission, priorities, and guidelines. The Foundation Center helps us meet that responsibility and need. Thus, we have provided financial support and leadership to the Foundation Center for years. The Foundation Center plays a fundamental role in our sector and earns our support every day.

"Among large foundations, the Woodruff Foundation might be viewed as a little contrarian. We are geographically focused on our city and state, and we are unabashedly responsive in our grantmaking. Our strategy and fundamental philosophy is to invest in "other people's ideas." The wisdom of experience has taught us that generally we accomplish more when we invest in inspired and capable leadership than when we seek applicants to pursue our own ideas or solutions. That style has the ancillary benefit of allowing us to operate with minimal bureaucracy and overhead costs."

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Robert W. Woodruff Foundation
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