Have Bold Ideas & Dare to Do Them

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - 12:20 pm EDT
Shelley Trott
Award Nominations

The Council is currently accepting nominations for the 2017 Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking. Nominate a courageous leader and innovative grantmaker today.

The Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking honors grantmakers who, with a combination of vision, principle, and personal commitment, are making a critical difference in a creative way.

In 2014, I received the Scrivner Award for my work at the Kenneth Rainin Foundation to launch the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), a nonprofit real estate development and holding company that creates affordable, permanent space for arts and culture. In the San Francisco Bay Area, affordability presents a serious challenge to retaining strong, vibrant, and diverse arts communities. In search of a solution to an impending crisis, the Rainin Foundation partnered with some of our most progressive thinkers on creative finance and nonprofits to create CAST.

The Scrivner Award brought much needed attention to the growing affordability crisis and served as a springboard for CAST’s ambitious goal to permanently solve arts displacement. Four short years ago, CAST was simply an untested idea with the potential to preserve the arts in San Francisco. It began with an innovative model to acquire two buildings for small contemporary arts nonprofits totaling 15,000 square feet and $5M. Since then, CAST has had rapid success. Support from public agencies and private foundations has generated $23.8M in funding and provided opportunities to increase CAST’s impact by 30x within ten years. The next five real estate projects in CAST’s pipeline total 115,000+ square feet of permanent space for the arts in one of the most expensive regions in the country. The model has attracted national and international attention with replication efforts underway in multiple cities.

The award not only provided important visibility and credibility, it also reinforced the value of taking big bets on visionary ideas. Something for which Robert Scrivner was well known. After I learned of my nomination, I began to research Mr. Scrivner’s work as the first Executive Director of the Rockefeller Family Fund. I was amazed to read that he was the catalyst that led to the nuclear arms control movement, was one of the first to assert that tobacco companies should be held accountable for smoking-related deaths, and started a program that supported veterans exposed to Agent Orange. I felt compelled to learn more.

A Courageous Leader & Virtuoso Listener

By serendipity, Robert Scrivner’s widow, Melinda Scrivner, and I had a mutual friend who put us in touch. Melinda and I had a wide-ranging and enlightening conversation that touched on many aspects of philanthropy, including her work leading the Winston Foundation for World Peace. We talked at length about Bob (as Robert was known to friends and colleagues), his work, and how he was able to play such an influential role in our field. 

Melinda shared that Bob changed the perception of what a foundation could and should do, had a gift for looking into the future, and led the movement for social responsibility. He was a courageous leader often described as soft-spoken, humble, gracious, passionate, and a virtuoso listener. She said he embraced the importance of integrity, of imagination, of gambling on people, and of having bold ideas and daring to do them. She also commended the Rockefeller Family Fund board of directors for their willingness to take risks and invest early in groundbreaking initiatives.

We live in challenging times that require unprecedented collaboration and a commitment to take risks toward a more equitable future. As grantmakers entrusted with valuable public and private resources, we have a responsibility to carry on Robert Scrivner’s legacy; to be courageous, humble, and virtuoso listeners, have bold ideas and dare to do them.

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Leadership Development