Council on Foundations Announces 2016 Awards Program Recipients

The Council on Foundations today announced the recipients of three awards:

  • Distinguished Service Award
  • Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking
  • Wilmer Shields Rich Award for Excellence in Communications

These awards recognize excellence in philanthropy and honor exemplary leaders in the field.

Distinguished Service Award

The Distinguished Service Award, philanthropy’s highest honor, celebrates visionary leaders who embody those inspirational qualities that define excellence in philanthropy—commitment, courage, entrepreneurship, and impact. This year, the Council is honoring two people with this award:

  • Ira Hirschfield - President and Trustee, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
  • Carol Larson - President and CEO, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Ira Hirschfield has served as president and trustee of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund for nearly 30 years, and under his leadership, the Haas, Jr. Fund has become a national leader when it comes to taking on issues of inequality and injustice. Among the Fund’s signature achievements is its leadership in the successful drive for marriage equality, including the landmark Supreme Court decision last year. The transformative results of the Fund’s work can be seen locally as well, as Ira played a critical role in the transformation of San Francisco’s Crissy Field from a military airfield into a beautiful park that now attracts more than a million people a year.

Prior to joining the Fund he served in leadership positions at the Rockefeller Family and Associates, the Philanthropic Collaborative, and Levi Strauss Foundation. Ira cofounded and served as president and chairman of the F.B. Heron Foundation and has served on the board of the Council, Independent Sector, the National Center for Family Philanthropy, the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy, and GuideStar.

“Ira Hirschfield’s career has been focused on improving the quality of life for several of our nation’s most vulnerable populations, and he has done so with vision and a strong voice,” said Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of the Council on Foundations. “Always gracious, Ira has long been a respected voice for strengthening the field of philanthropy and enhancing its commitment to equity and justice. I’m particularly proud we are recognizing his work to achieve marriage equality. He works thoughtfully and collaboratively with nonprofit leaders and community partners and is known for his commitment to values as well as impact.”

Carol Larson has served the Packard Foundation for 26 years, the last twelve as its president. Under her leadership, the foundation has built collaborative philanthropic efforts with a wide variety of colleagues around some of today’s toughest challenges like mitigating the effects of climate change, ensuring children have the opportunity to reach their full potential, and providing access to quality reproductive health care. At every level, she has worked to establish the Packard Foundation as a center for innovation and excellence in philanthropy.

Additionally, she has provided extensive service to strengthening the field of philanthropy. Carol is a leader in the Encore Movement, encouraging older adults to work for the common good. She served on the board of Northern California Grantmakers and Grantmakers for Children, Youth, and Families and as the board chair of the Council on Foundations from 2010 to 2012. Carol currently serves on the boards of the ClimateWorks Foundation and the American Leadership Forum — Silicon Valley. Notably, she mentors other philanthropic leaders.

“Carol Larson is rightfully being recognized for her global philanthropic leadership,” said Spruill. “Under her leadership, the Packard Foundation has built collaboration among foundations, and her efforts to create a tighter philanthropic community have undeniably improved the quality of all our work. She is also known for her humility and integrity, as well as her commitment to ensuring that American philanthropy engages thoughtfully in a global context.”

Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking

Established in honor of the late Robert Winston Scrivner, the award honors an innovative grantmaker who, with a combination of vision, principle, and personal commitment, makes a critical difference in a creative way. This year’s Scrivner Award winner is:

  • Helen Brunner - Advisor to the Quixote Foundation’s media reform program & Founding Director of the Media Democracy Fund

Helen Brunner is a leading philanthropic expert in media and technology policy, freedom of expression, and the arts. Helen has fought tirelessly for the public’s basic rights in the digital age and to secure universal access to a free and open internet. Among many other victories, her efforts to fund and organize the successful campaign for net neutrality helped ensure that the internet and future communications technologies remain open and accessible.

“Helen Brunner is known as a visionary risk taker, a pioneer in recognizing the power of the internet to provide a platform for social equity and building a long-term strategy for protecting access to this vital tool. She looked beyond what philanthropy was then and as a result she revolutionized the field,” noted Spruill. “The results speak for themselves. Her work has inspired millions of people to take action.”

Wilmer Shields Rich Award for Excellence in Communications

Created in 1984 and named in honor of the first executive director of the National Council on Community Foundations (now the Council on Foundations), the Wilmer Shields Rich Award for Excellence in Communications is bestowed upon an organization that has creatively and effectively used strategic communications to further its mission and goals. This year’s award goes to:

  • Global Greengrants Fund, a leading environmental fund that supports grassroots action around the world.

When the Global Greengrants Fund decided to embark on a grantmaking initiative to increase support to community projects that address both women’s rights and climate change, they were met with questions from many quarters about the connection between climate change and women’s rights, not to mention questions about the ability of small grants to create real change. They responded by developing an innovative grassroots communications strategy, #WomenAndClimate, that highlighted the link between women and climate change, amplified grassroots voices, and built capacity to support action.

“The Global Greengrants Fund is receiving this award,” said Vikki Spruill, “because they recognized a previously overlooked problem and used creative communications to solve it. The Global Greengrants Fund successfully focused on convincing select audiences of the importance of funding climate change and women's rights together, and in the process created a model of excellence in philanthropy for others to follow.”

The 2016 awards will be presented at the Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference. To learn more, please visit


About the Council on Foundations

An active philanthropic network, the Council on Foundations (, founded in 1949, is a nonprofit leadership association of grantmaking foundations and corporations. It provides the opportunity, leadership, and tools needed by philanthropic organizations to expand, enhance and sustain their ability to advance the common good. With members from all foundation types and sizes, the Council empowers professionals in philanthropy to meet today’s toughest challenges and advances a culture of charitable giving in the U.S. and globally.

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