Lois Morrison, Executive Director, Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation

    "We believe the economic and ecological health of communities depends to a large degree on the ability of its citizens to be better stewards of the natural world – of the land, air and water upon which all life depends."

    1. How did you become involved in philanthropy?

    I have always worked in conservation. The first part of my career was spent working to advance natural resources and wildlife policy in regional, national, and global organizations. And for as long as I can remember, my sisters and I were taught three core family values—work ethic, stewardship, and social consciousness. I found myself more and more drawn to combining my personal and family values with my professional aspirations. So, when the opportunity was presented to me to become the first executive director of The Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, I was honored and jumped at the chance.

    2. What types of projects do you fund?

    The Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation has always supported environmental organizations. It wasn’t until 2008, however, when we went through a year-long strategic planning process, that we made the decision to focus on environmental education programs that benefit underserved communities suffering disproportionately from economic hardship, environmental degradation, and lack of access to parks and natural areas. The Morrison Family Foundation works in partnership with nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and other funders to advance environmental education programs in and for these communities.

    We believe that the most profound experiences are ones in which individuals experience nature directly and the Foundation therefore principally funds programs that expose individuals, most often children, to nature in a direct and hands-on way. Although we have a concentration of projects within the Lake County and Chicago regions of Illinois, we invest in projects nationally and internationally as well.

    3. Why does your organization focus on connecting people to nature?

    Although our board represents a diversity of professions, every member of the board has personal stories and experiences that passionately commit them to our mission. We believe the economic and ecological health of communities depends to a large degree on the ability of its citizens to be better stewards of the natural world – of the land, air and water upon which all life depends. If you don’t have personal knowledge of or connection to nature, and the special natural areas in your community, you are never going to advocate for their protection.

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

    The funders you have the opportunity to meet through Blue Sky are amazing and inspiring in and of themselves. But Blue Sky gives us all an opportunity to share insights, ideas, and experiences, as well as to pool our passions and resources to increase our effectiveness individually and as a collective.

    Blue Sky gives us confidence to invest in local outdoor environmental education programs in a number of different ways. One is by offering a context for how our local programs fit into a regional and national picture. Another is by exposing us to other similar programs, across the country, so that we can learn from each other to strengthen and improve our local impact. And yet another is through stories and research that helps to expand our understanding of the impacts we can work to achieve. Most importantly, Blue Sky is helping us to understand both the urgency of our mission and the barriers for success, and is stretching us to think more broadly and to act more boldly in developing strategies for advancing the field.

    5. Tell me about one or two of your favorite or most successful grants related to connecting people with nature.

    The Lake County Nature Network has grown over the years out of evolving community opportunities and needs and is still in development. The Network focuses on building trust and relationships, through a community ambassador called the Nature Navigator, within majority Latino and African American communities along the shores of Lake Michigan in Lake County, Illinois. These are communities that have traditionally not had access to, or taken advantage of their public lands and water resources. The Lake County Nature Network is working through its many member organizations to connect kids and families to nature and thus helping to foster a sense of pride in and stewardship of these incredible places.

    On a very different scale is our partnership with Rare, a global conservation organization committed to inspiring change so people and nature thrive. Since becoming involved with the organization in 2008, we have witnessed Rare’s incredible discipline, passion, impact, and growth both as a grantmaker and as an active board member. More importantly, we have learned a great deal from Rare’s hopeful, pride-focused behavior change model that we have leveraged in a number of the organizations we support.

    Lois Morrison serves as executive director of the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, promoting environmental education opportunities for children and families in underserved communities. Before her transition to the Morrison Family Foundation, Lois was director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Program, where she worked to protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem. Lois has extensive conservation policy and project management experience from working in a variety of capacities, including policy analyst for the Council of Great Lakes Governors and natural resources manager for the Clinton Administration’s President’s Council on Sustainable Development. Lois’s current and past board service includes Chicago Botanic Garden, Lake Forest Open Lands, Rare, and Friends of the Chicago River, and she is active in Forefront’s Environmental and Family Philanthropy networks. Lois received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.B.A. and master's degree in Environmental Policy from Yale University. Lois lives in Chicago with her husband, Justin, and two daughters, Josephine and Addie.


    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
    All comments are reviewed and moderated.
    Image CAPTCHA
    Enter the characters shown in the image.