Hannah Quimby, Executive Director, Quimby Family Foundation

    "Meaningful outdoor time, preferably in community, is a win-win for human and environmental health."

    1. How did you become involved in philanthropy?

    As my Mom prepared to sell her company in 2004, she shared her vision for the proceeds of the sale, which included establishing a private operating foundation for a large-scale conservation effort in Maine as well as a family foundation. Early on she engaged my twin brother and I in the formation and leadership of the Quimby Family Foundation. We were all new to the world of philanthropy and foundations so we initially met with a philanthropic advisor to consider where our individual interests aligned, the basic structure and “nuts and bolts” of running a foundation, and together we developed a mission and vision. The Quimby Family Foundation was established in 2004 with the three of us serving as board members. An eight-member board of directors and a small advisory committee now governs the foundation and I am closely involved in its strategy and day-to-day operations.

    2. What is your grantmaking strategy and what kinds of projects do you fund?

    Initially the Quimby Family Foundation focused its funding in two broad focus areas, arts and the environment. After a decade of making grants in these two areas we were reviewing over 400 proposals a year and, as a relatively small foundation, we were declining funding to a vast majority of the applicants. The task of reviewing proposals went from inspiring and meaningful to one that was daunting and exhausting our small volunteer grants committee. So, we took a step back, and spent several months talking with nonprofit leaders, other funders, researchers, and community members to refocus and narrow our funding. From dozens of conversations across the state of Maine, we learned where there was great need and opportunity and what aligned with our own passion. Within the broad category of “environment” we remain committed to the connection between people and the natural environment and we now emphasize Human Wholeness as the lens to evaluate projects. We define Human Wholeness as physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health and we look for projects that foster stronger relationships between people and nature for the benefit of human and environmental health. Our strategy involves considering primary barriers to health and how nature connection, through involvement in our local food system and outdoor activity, benefits human and environmental health.

    3.Why do you focus on connecting people to nature?

    The question of what is “the most important issue” to direct resources toward feels impossible to answer when there are so many challenges in the world. I return to a care for the natural environment because without clean air, water, and food, we won’t survive. While there is tremendous immediate need, we also need to take a long-range perspective and support the relationship between humans and nature for the future of the planet and its species. This is our focus because we know that people have to directly experience meaningful time in the natural environment in order to care about its health. Nature connection also encourages and supports human health, which is currently challenged by sedentary lifestyles, a broken food system, nature deficit disorder, and isolation/loneliness. Meaningful outdoor time, preferably in community, is a win-win for human and environmental health.

    4. What do you value most about being in the Blue Sky community?

    I appreciate that Blue Sky convenes like-minded funders who share a common passion in order to learn alongside one another. I’m excited about the opportunity to grow and deepen these relationships, to learn from people working in different geographic regions who all have a unique approach to connecting people to nature, and to continue being inspired by my peers. When I’m bogged down by day-to-day administrative tasks (and my own lack of outdoor time!) a community like Blue Sky can provide a boost of inspiration and perspective.

    5. What topics and questions are you interested in engaging with other funders about?

    I’m interested in learning from funders that have been a part of successful statewide initiatives involving policy/advocacy. I’m also interested in evaluation as many of our grantees are small nonprofits that would like to have more quantitative data on their program outcomes but don’t always have the expertise or funding to conduct more in depth evaluation.

    6. Tell me about one or two of your favorite/most successful grants or projects related to connecting people to nature/environmental literacy.

    In 2016, a local land trust put out a RFP for their 62-acre Hurricane Valley Farm and one of our grantees, Cultivating Community, submitted the successful proposal. The mission of Cultivating Community is to grow sustainable communities by expanding access to healthy, local food; empowering children, youth, and adults to play diverse roles in restoring the local, sustainable food systems; and modeling, teaching, and advocating for ecological food production. At Hurricane Valley Farm, Cultivating Community has been partnering with New American Farmers and other small-scale local farmers to learn about and implement new techniques for building more climate-resilient farm businesses using Permaculture and Regenerative Agriculture. We chose to support this new project because it epitomizes so much of what we care about including community building, nature connection, human health and environmentally sound farming. A key factor in grant support is when an organization prioritizes reaching under-served populations (in this case new Americans) who’ve had less access and ownership of land.

    7. What is your favorite outdoor activity?

    I love immersive wilderness experiences where I am able to spend at least a few days in the woods with my backpack and close friends/family. One of my favorite activities over the past few years has been hiking and climbing the state highpoints with my husband. As of June 2018 we have just one left to climb (Denali in Alaska) and are considering what our next outdoor adventure may be….one that we can tackle with our baby who is due in just four weeks!
     

    Hannah Quimby serves as Executive Director of the Quimby Family Foundation, an organization with the mission to grow human wholeness by fostering the relationship between people and nature. Prior to her current role, Hannah worked to grow her family’s business, Burt’s Bees, as a territory manager and corporate trainer. Hannah holds a graduate degree in Integrative Health, is a certified fitness instructor and nutritionist, and graduated from the 2015 Exponent Philanthropy Next Gen Fellows program.
     
    Hannah was raised in an off the grid cabin, surrounded by forest to explore, and hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine as a young adult. These experiences imbued her with a deep love for wilderness and an appreciation of how outdoor time and human health go hand in hand. She’s committed to supporting access to value forming outdoor experiences for all.
     
    Hannah is a trustee of three family foundations, serves on the board of the Children and Nature Network, is on the Advisory Board of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, and is an Outreach Ambassador with the Outdoors Empowered Network.

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