The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

Teaming Up for a Brighter Tomorrow

Mary and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.

Imagine being tasked with giving away $1.2 billion in 20 years to improve two communities important to a man who entrusted you with his legacy. The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation leadership considers this challenge an honor and a privilege. They are now creating a strategic playbook to carry out Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s wishes through a phased approach to make the greatest impact while creating long lasting support for the communities he cared about.

“We see our Foundation as having four unique life phases with the first being Transition. It is what we call our ‘get smart’ mode and that is where we are now,” said David Egner, President and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “This phase started with ‘legacy gifts’ that the trustees put in place knowing what Mr. Wilson would have wanted to see these funded right away as well as a process of getting to know Southeast Michigan and Western New York.”

David describes Phase Two as the Impact phase, which may encompass more traditional grantmaking and focus on funding multi-year pilot projects. Phase Three will be a Transformational phase and may involve doubling down on funding to provide long-lasting and sustainable change. The final phase will be an Exit and Legacy phase. It is still too early to set a timetable for these phases.

To kick off Phase One, the Foundation sought out trusted philanthropic partners in the communities to get on the ground and start learning about the needs and opportunities for impact.

“When we reached out to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, they immediately set up a tour to show us places most in need in Western New York,” said Mary Wilson, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Life Trustee. “We needed a partner we could trust that would teach us best practices in philanthropy, as well as connect us to key players in the community.”

Additionally, in its first year, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation created multiple endowments at the Community Foundation to provide permanent funding to causes Mr. Wilson cared about deeply.

“These field of interest endowments will live in perpetuity beyond the limited lifetime of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation,” said David Egner. “We have already expanded our investments based on the access to ideas and collaboration through the Community Foundation.”

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation recognizes that it must operate differently, with urgency and a collaborative spirit, to create meaningful change in our community and to honor the remarkable legacy and generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson.

Read More Client Stories