Leading by Example

By Jean Buckley
Tracy Family Foundation
Mount Sterling
Illinois

Jean Buckley, president of Tracy Family Foundation, was raised in a household where giving back to the community was extremely important but seldom discussed. Instead, her family led by example in its personal philanthropy and volunteer service to local nonprofits.

It wasn’t until the Tracy Family Foundation was formed in 1997 by Buckley and her 11 siblings that she became involved in organized private foundation philanthropy. She was appointed to its board of directors.

Today, the foundation continues her family’s legacy of community building by concentrating its giving in and around Brown County, IL, a largely rural area with a population of approximately 5,000. The family business—the source of initial and ongoing foundation funds—is headquartered there, and many family members, including Buckley, consider it to be home.

Investing in Community

Tracy Family Foundation recently completed a strategic planning process to hone its focus on local youth and education initiatives, especially improving the local school system and other community-based organizations that cater to young people and families. The strategic planning process gave the foundation a clear directive to work with community groups to help make Brown County a magnet community to which people want to move, settle down, and call home.

“No matter how far the future generations of Tracys scatter,” wrote the Tracy siblings in a Family Legacy Statement in 2000, “Mt. Sterling will be considered home and the root of our upbringing.”

Concentrating the foundation’s philanthropy on such a small area, says Buckley, allows the family and the foundation trustees to see daily the impact their grantmaking has on a community about which they care deeply.

A Journey of Learning, Giving

Buckley says her involvement in philanthropy has been a journey. “I’m one of those people who, once involved in something, wants to learn as much as possible about it. I didn’t know much about the formal world of philanthropy and really made an effort to seek out resources from organizations like Exponent Philanthropy.”

Buckley describes Exponent Philanthropy’s staff and resources as a key part of her professional development. “Everybody in our family and on the foundation board recognizes that Exponent Philanthropy is a fabulous resource for us. Exponent Philanthropy’s materials allow us to be educated right here at home.”

Since the Tracy Family Foundation joined Exponent Philanthropy in 1999, Buckley has become a very active Exponent Philanthropy volunteer, first joining Exponent Philanthropy’s Impact Working Group that advises Exponent Philanthropy and fellow members on ways to make a difference. In October 2011, Exponent Philanthropy welcomed Buckley to the board of directors.

The Tracy Family Foundation also regularly makes a gift to Exponent Philanthropy above dues. “At the end of the day,” says Buckley, “we are a better organization because of Exponent Philanthropy and the many tools you put at our fingertips.”