Randi Fisher, Co-Founder and Trustee, Pisces Foundation

    "We focus on environmental literacy projects because it is so clear to us that without environmental know-how, the next generation won’t be able to address the challenges they are going to face."

    1. How did you become involved in philanthropy?

    It has always been my dream to do this work because I have always enjoyed making the lives of others better. From a very young age, I can remember being a listener and one who cared deeply about the wellbeing of those around me. I have often wondered why I ended up where I ended up, but I guess I was destined for this. My parents and in-laws instilled a strong philanthropic ethic, and I feel a responsibility to carry this legacy forward. I had the opportunity to participate in a donor education program through the Hewlett Foundation almost a decade ago, and I realized that I could actually make a profession out of giving money away.

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

    Bob and I decided early on to focus our philanthropy on environmental issues. Previously, I was working in education and with youth at risk, while Bob was deeply rooted in the environment. He easily convinced me of the urgency to address climate change and threats to clean water. We united around the notion that people and nature thrive together, and this became our mantra for the Pisces Foundation.

    In addition to climate and water, we focus on promoting environmental literacy. I have always felt that without environmental know-how, the next generation will be unable to address the challenges they are going to face. There is no question that natural resource limitations will force them to live more sustainably, and it’s imperative that they understand science and the world around them in order to live healthy lives.

    3. How do you think Blue Sky can make these essential learning opportunities more accessible in all communities?

    The bottom line is that the field of environmental education is extremely fractured. A few years ago, I was asked by NAAEE to bring together funders interested in the environment and education at its annual conference. There was an overwhelming interest by funders of all types to address the lack of money flowing to environmental literacy programs around the country. Following on a promise after this convening to uplift the field and create a structure to coordinate efforts, a small core group worked to create Blue Sky. By knitting together a diversity of funders who care about the same outcomes, Blue Sky hopes to scale environmental education and deepen the impact of this rich programming nationally.

    There is no better time to create Blue Sky—we have finally come to a tipping point with environmental literacy. Many states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, there is a renewed focus on national health with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move agenda, and more than ever climate change is affecting the way we live with drastic weather patterns—the momentum for private foundations, corporations and other funding entities both public and private, is real. There are tangible signs that the country is ready to embrace science and environmental learning. Blue Sky can help connect formal and informal learning platforms. Reinforcing the significance of what kids learn in school with wonderful out-of-school experiences can transform the way the next generation thinks and acts.

    Blue Sky can also help connect the education and environment programs in foundations that have failed to see the overlap.

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

    The power of Blue Sky is its capacity to have a collective impact on the field. Together funders can gather around national projects that will highlight the importance of environmental literacy. For instance, The National Parks Centennial in 2016 provides an excellent opportunity to identify projects that have national scope. Blue Sky can facilitate collaboration between funders, government, and nonprofit partners to ensure that more families have access to public lands and promote the development of more park advocates. I’m excited to learn and think together with other funders to take advantage of this and other collaborative opportunities.

    5. What is your favorite outdoor activity?

    For those who know me, they understand that on a beautiful day, I will be restless and grumpy if I have to work inside! I spend every minute I can outside. I grew up in the Sacramento Valley where there was a great emphasis on the outdoors. I was lucky to wander the creek behind my house, and bike for hours on end through the woods. In raising my own children, I always felt it was important to expose them to the outdoors. For reasons we all share, I knew I wanted them to be lovers of nature. We spent many family vacations exploring the natural world and because of this orientation, my favorite outdoor activities are skiing, hiking and in particular, fly fishing.

    Randi Fisher is a philanthropist and social entrepreneur focused on the nexus of environment, health and sustainability. She is co-founder and trustee of the Pisces Foundation in San Francisco.
    The Foundation’s vision, “people and nature thriving together,” reflects Randi’s belief that awareness of the interconnectedness between people and nature is critical to our collective future. Randi is involved in the full range of the foundation’s work with emphasis on its environmental literacy program, which seeks to prepare the next generation to make sound, sustainable decisions about health and the environment.
    In addition to her work at the foundation, Randi serves in leadership positions at a range of nonprofit organizations focused on environmental stewardship and human well being. Currently, she is a trustee of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, where she helped found the Institute at the Golden Gate; a founding board member of Education Outside, a San Francisco nonprofit committed to advancing science outdoors; and a co-founder and advisory council member of Ten Strands, which connects education, environment, and community in California.
    Previously, Randi played a central role in founding Blue Sky Funders Forum, designed to build the environmental education field; provided critical early support to ChangeScale, a collaborative of leading Bay Area science and education organizations; and served as a trustee of the California Academy of Sciences, where the Foundation’s support is catalyzing a global environmental literacy initiative. Earlier in her career, Randi played a key role in developing the Bay Area Discovery Museum, a children’s museum providing arts, technology, and environmental education programs, and encouraged youth development through her involvement with Summer Search and Breakthrough Collaborative.
    Randi graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1979 with a Bachelor of Art degree in Fine Arts and Psychology. In 1985, she received a Masters’ degree in Arts Administration from New York University.