Donor Intent

When Archie and Edyth Bush founded the Bush Foundation in 1953, they created a very flexible institution. They gave us few constraints in how we work to do good.

So, rather than be guided by any written instruction, we are guided by our understanding of their lives and philanthropy as well as by their model in the early days when they served on the board of the Bush Foundation. Because there is an Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park, Florida, which is an expression of Edyth’s interests, we tend to focus more on Archie for the Bush Foundation.

Luckily for us, there is a lot that is inspiring about Archie. He was a truly generous person. There are lots of stories showing this — like how he paid off the mortgages of an employee’s widow and other examples of supporting people through hardship. There are lots of stories about how he invested in people — like offering a loan to an employee to go to medical school then forgiving the loan. He was civically engaged, chairing the war bond committee and serving on the planning commission and the distribution committee in the early days of what was then known as The St. Paul Foundation. People often described him as a “jolly” person with an optimistic spirit.

Today, you see reflections of Archie in our values and our strategy. For example:

We invest in great ideas and the people who power them. The focus on ideas is a link back to Archie’s leadership at 3M, while the focus on people reflects Archie’s own philanthropy.

The Bush Fellowship program was created while Archie was president of the Foundation and reflected the type of program he wished he could have benefitted from. Today, it still looks a lot like when it was first introduced back in 1965, particularly the belief that leadership can come from all backgrounds and the intent to be trusting and flexible. (And it has changed in important ways — most notably it is no longer only for men!)

Under Archie’s leadership, the Foundation provided operating support for some key civic organizations while also supporting big change projects. Perhaps most significantly, the Foundation helped to create Granville House in the 1960s, including buying the property for Ramsey County, to provide a residence for women recovering from alcoholism. It was an innovative program and a cross-sector partnership with significant strategic and financial risk for the Foundation. Today, in that same spirit, we provide operating support to key organizations working across issues and sectors through our Ecosystem grant program, and we support big, ambitious change efforts with grants and program-related investments (PRIs) through our Community Innovation grant program.

We don’t have specific issue or geographic priorities within the region. However, because of the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to education and to the arts, we continue to support good work in those areas. We also give extra consideration to proposals coming from St. Paul or Granite Falls, two of Archie’s hometowns — particularly collaborative civic efforts that are the kind Archie might have joined.

We share what we know about Archie and Edyth’s donor intent with every new Foundation staff and board member and try to keep their intent and spirit in mind as we do our work. Every five years, the board does a deep review of how we are reflecting Archie and Edyth’s hopes for us, and we make changes if needed.

We find lots of inspiration in the lives and philanthropy of Archie and Edyth Bush. We hope they would be proud of the Bush Foundation!