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The Healy Foundation Leads the Way with Trust-Based Philanthropy

We recently met with Suzanne Geary, executive director of the Healy Foundation to hear more about their approach to grant making. Cameron Healy first started the Bill Healy Foundation in 1997, named in honor of his father. The foundation has a long history of supporting youth and environmental organizations in Oregon and Hawaii. In January 2018, Healy brought on Suzanne to lead the organization reiterating the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit when it came to the foundation’s approach. This allowed Suzanne the freedom to take risks, try new things and think about how to build on the foundation’s history while also addressing the power imbalance between funders and nonprofits.

Suzanne Geary

I believe philanthropy’s role is to be a backseat, supporting role, to the nonprofits who are the ones executing on their missions. I think that philanthropy as a sector is at a transition point and I am hopeful that more foundations will shift to trust-based giving.”

Suzanne came to the foundation with a plethora of nonprofit experience and has found that even though many people at foundations are deeply engaged in community, there are often more processes, restrictions and hoops to jump through that end up taking away from what nonprofits need. This can sometimes cause nonprofits to chase dollars and go outside of their missions. Suzanne brought with her the understanding that the people who know what best to do with the funding are not always those in philanthropy, because they are not “in the work” day in and day out.

“There’s a lot of research out there that says the number one thing you can do to help nonprofits be sustainable is to give nonprofits unrestricted dollars. So that’s what we did. It turns out the big idea is really quite simple.”

The Healy Foundation made some initial strides toward trust-based philanthropy by simplifying what they ask in their application, improving the systems and technology, and providing 100% unrestricted funds.

There are still more steps that the foundation is hoping to take. The ultimate goal is meaningful giving on both sides that leads to authentic partnerships. The team at the foundation is working on becoming even more trust-based and we are excited to see what they try next!

The Healy Foundation is also generously expanding its scholarship program created in honor of Cameron Healy’s mother, Barbara Leppe, to a College Possible student this year, with the hope to add more in the future.

We picked College Possible because they have great and wonderful relationships with students, but don’t offer scholarships themselves. So, we thought what better way than to partner with the organization to offer this opportunity.”

For more information, or to stay up to date with what’s coming next, check out

We’re grateful to the Healy Foundation for generously supporting College Possible and our students on their paths to college graduation since 2014. Thank you for leading the way in reimaging philanthropy in our region!

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