Who We Are | Our Mission | Our Name | Our Funding Philosophy | Our Geographic Focus
The Lodestar Foundation, a grantmaking organization, is devoted to
leveraging philanthropy by promoting the strategic investment of
capital, both human and financial. Rather than focusing on specific fields of interest like traditional foundations, our goals are to support nonprofits by encouraging philanthropy generally and to serve as a catalyst for change by focusing on reforming process – the way nonprofit business is done.
Lodestar was founded in 1999 by its chairman, Jerry Hirsch, and its president, Lois Savage. Our staff consists of less than three full-time employees (a part-time grants manager and a part-time program manager in addition to Jerry and Lois). In 2010, Jerry was named by Barron's magazine as one of the top 25 high-impact philantropists in recognition of his efforts to support nonprofit collaboration.
Our grantmaking structure is informal. Instead of using formal grant applications, we give feedback to prospective grantees that submit proposals consistent with our mission. If we determine that a proposal fits within the parameters of our mission, then we work with the applicant to develop a detailed proposal for funding consideration. We have the ability to act quickly, without the constraints of grant cycles.
The Lodestar Foundation seeks to maximize the leverage of philanthropic
dollars and engagement through the pursuit of two strategies:
- to increase philanthropic resources by supporting organizations, programs and projects that serve primarily to encourage philanthropy, public service and/or volunteerism; and
- to increase philanthropic impact by encouraging and supporting long-term collaborations among nonprofits working in the same area in order to increase efficiency and/or impact and to reduce duplication of efforts, and the adoption of other sound business practices.
One of the challenges in starting a new enterprise is finding the right name to reflect the essence of the organization. In
1999, as we were forming the foundation, we read through an entire
dictionary searching for the perfect name; it was there that we
discovered the word “lodestar.” “Lodestar” has two meanings: first, it’s
the guiding star that is used as a point of reference for sailors in
navigation, and, secondly, and more generally, it is something that
serves as a model, inspiration or guiding principle. We subsequently
learned that “lodestar” has a third meaning in Arizona history; the
“lodestar” was the first shining glint of ore, uncovered by miners,
that foreshadowed striking a rich vein of ore in the mine. Applying any
of these three definitions, it seems the perfect name for a foundation
that was formed to inspire and guide us to find happiness through
We are among the very few foundations that focus on process rather than on specific fields of interest. As such, we are generally social-issue blind. A central feature of our focus on process is encouraging nonprofits to utilize efficient business practices in their operations. Our grantmaking is multilevel and multifaceted in each of our strategic areas. In addition to making grants for specific projects and programs, we also make grants to build capacity in organizations that further our mission.
To implement our strategy of building philanthropy, we focus on strengthening organizations that primarily exist to encourage philanthropy, volunteerism or public service in the community. We support donor networks as well as nonprofits that have as a primary mission the desire to (a) grow philanthropy, (b) promote and train volunteers, or (c) support, encourage or train citizen engagement in public-service activities.
To implement our strategy of increasing philanthropic impact, we support individual nonprofit collaborations and also projects that expand available resources (both financial and technical assistance) for collaboration and projects that otherwise promote the exploration of collaboration and the adoption of sound business practices in the sector. Our collaboration work is broad-based in that we support long-term collaborations in all forms, ranging from joint programming to administrative consolidations (sharing office space and/or services) to mergers and acquisitions to associations and confederations.
Lodestar is based in Phoenix, Arizona, and a number of our
grants fund projects and initiatives of local nonprofits. However, we
are opportunity-driven and will consider making grants elsewhere for
opportunities that (1) are exceptionally aligned with our mission and
strategies, (2) include strong funding partners to participate with us,
and (3) are so compelling that they outweigh the difficulties of
long-distance funding and oversight. Consequently, we have made grants throughout the United States and in Central America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and will consider grant opportunities worldwide.