JULY Member Spotlight

Meet Mari Kuraishi
Jessie Ball duPont Fund

Mari Kuraishi is the president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, leading the Fund's efforts to create communities of belonging for the places and institutions that Jessie Ball duPont knew and loved by fostering inclusive growth and reducing structural and systemic barriers to resources and opportunity.

What is your involvement with Florida Philanthropic Network? What influenced you to join?

"Truthfully, I didn’t have to make a choice to join; my predecessor had not only signed us up, but had played a role in founding FPN. Also, one of our program officers had been the FPN CEO in a previous life–it was something of a no-brainer to retain our membership, and it has also been an important part of my own schooling in the ways of Florida philanthropy."

    Name one thing you find special about the Florida philanthropic community.

    "The Florida philanthropic community is young. The rest of East Coast/Midwest philanthropy has deeper roots in 19th century industrialism, and has been institutional for longer. Because we are young, I think we have the capacity to innovate."

    Are there any partnerships or collaborations you have found most meaningful to you in the last year?

    "The Jessie Ball duPont Fund partnered with the City of Jacksonville and many other community partners and donors to re-introduce the Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in Jacksonville’s historic LaVilla neighborhood. This project was very important to the community, as it honors two of Jacksonville’s most famous residents, James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson. The Johnson brothers wrote “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” often called the Black National Anthem, at their home in the LaVilla neighborhood in the early 1900s.

    Another example includes our work to activate Jacksonville’s Riverfront when we convened a group to conduct research and public stakeholder engagement on creating a vibrant downtown riverfront to inform plans to activate downtown. This research was in response to a request from the city to learn more about what people wanted to do on the river, as well as to incorporate best practices and global benchmarking as we looked at revamping our City’s most powerful natural asset.

    We also built a public-private partnership to help address affordable housing challenges in Jacksonville, leveraging a $10 million commitment by the City to catalyze a $40 million loan fund that will make building affordable housing more attractive to developers."

    What's the biggest challenge you've faced with your philanthropic efforts? How have you overcome them?

    "We are a mid-size foundation. If we key off our administrative spend against the money we have for grantmaking, we underfund our capacity to convene, organize, and catalyze. But increasing our administrative spend is something we do not undertake lightly; nor is it always easy to figure out the return on investment on that spend. "

    What fuels your cup – in life and at work?

    "I like to make things–I like to make meals, I like to garden, I like to knit and sew. Doing something tangible that can be completed in a defined period of time is a great counterbalance to engaging with wicked problems whose solutions feel like they stretch indefinitely out into the future."

    Can you share one piece of advice you would give to someone considering a career in philanthropy?

    "If you are susceptible to being flattered by being considered the smartest, best-looking, and most charming person in the room, don’t do it. The trappings of philanthropy will end up consuming you, and you won’t have a chance to make an imprint on the world. The catch? You have to keep asking yourself this question even after you enter the field."

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