Harris Family Endowment for Board Excellence


World travelers, successful business owners and champions of philanthropy, Hunt and Diane Harris have contributed to the sustainability of many local nonprofit organizations. The Hunt and Diane Harris Family Foundation has provided many years of vital grant support to charitable organizations serving the Quad City community.

The Harrises believe in family philanthropy and have named their daughter Jennifer, Boston, MA and their son and daughter-in-law, Molly and Alex, Naperville, IL as members of their Family Foundation’s board of directors. Each is given four percent of the year’s grants to distribute within the communities in which they live.

“It is very rewarding having our whole family involved in the governance of our Foundation,” said Hunt. “They have taken part in identifying needs in their own communities and have had the opportunity to understand our wishes for the Foundation.”

Hunt and Diane feel strongly about discussing their charitable goals with Alex, Molly and Jennifer during their lifetime. Diane says that talking today about the issues she and Hunt are passionate about will help guide them in leading the Foundation in the future. The Harrises are teaching the next generation the importance of effective board governance, something they know well.

Hunt and Diane have spent most of their adult lives volunteering and serving on local boards of directors. Hunt has served as board chair of both the United Way of the Quad Cities Area and The Mark of the Quad Cities, and is chairman of the Contributor’s Council. Diane has served on the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, Two Rivers YMCA, and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Association boards.

Hunt and Diane say that governance training has been done, and done well in the community but on a sporadic basis. They recognized the need for ongoing board training and understood that not all nonprofits could afford this activity. Hunt and Diane recently gave more than $100,000 to United Way for the purpose of establishing the Harris Family Endowment for Board Excellence at the Community Foundation. The earnings will be used to underwrite training, which is organized and sponsored by United Way. This permanent fund will provide annual training sessions and workshops for nonprofit board members now and for years to come.

“Most boards don’t fully understand their governing responsibilities,” said Hunt. “Even the best boards need improvement.”

The Harrises have sponsored two training workshops by Board Source, and they were well received by the nonprofit community. These sessions addressed specific topics pertinent to board members’ roles and responsibilities, and offered insight as to how board members can be not only donors who support their organization’s programs, but also leaders who help build capacity.

“Our hope is that other people will decide to contribute to this effort,” said Hunt. “The more money we have, the more training opportunities we can provide to the community.”

"Mary and I have been interested in the issue of hunger in the Quad Cities for many, many years. It is great to be able to have an impact."

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