About Brett

Our Mission:

Linda Shoemaker and Steve Brett founded the Brett Family Foundation in 2000 to invest in the creation of a more compassionate and just society. The Brett Family Foundation originally had an annual grantmaking budget of $500,000 and an endowment of $10 million.  The Great Recession took our endowment down to approximately $6.5 million, and we decreased our annual grantmaking budget to $350,000. The Foundation is in the process of rebounding and currently has an endowment of $9 million.  This year's grantmaking budget is $462,000.

Our mission is to promote caring communities by investing in organizations throughout Colorado working for social justice, developing nonprofit media, and Boulder County nonprofits addressing the needs of at-risk teens. 

Our Vision:

The Brett Family Foundation envisions a society that supports a strong democracy, healthy and inclusive communities, equal rights, access to opportunity for all, and a commitment to the common good.  We believe that all people are created equal and that individuals are entitled to just and equitable treatment, as well as economic and physical security.  We believe that government can and should be an enterprise for the public good and that progressive public policies, and an engaged citizenry, can create a more compassionate and just society.  

Our Values:

We believe that our philanthropy can and should be an active force in creative structural change so that the need for chronic charity is eliminated.  Therefore, we direct the majority of our resources to organizations working to reform the institutions and policies that perpetuate social, economic, and gender inequities.  We understand that there is no quick fix and no single strategy that will lead directly to a more equitable society.  We engage in partnership with other funders and our core grantees to provide long-term technical assistance, strategic support, and general operating grants.

Guiding Principles:

We believe that certain attributes of how we do our work as grantmakers have been critical to our successes to date and distinguish our foundation from most others.  Although specific strategies and areas of emphasis for the Foundation will change over time, the founders hope that the following ten principles will always guide our work.

Accessibility: We encourage our grantees to utilize the knowledge and expertise of our staff to develop stronger and more strategic organizations.  Foundation staff is accessible to the general public, grantees, and funding partners to answer questions about the Foundation's strategy, policies, and practices.

Advocacy: We support advocacy as a strategy for social change.  We support organizations and programs focused on advocacy.  We help non-profits and other foundations understand and embrace their legal rights of advocacy.

Community: As a state-based funder, we are highly engaged in the communities in which we live and invest.  Our leaders have a solid understanding and analysis of Colorado's social, economic, and political landscape and are engaged in the current social issues impacting the work of our grantees.

Consistency: As a social justice foundation, we are conscious of modeling internally the values of fairness, equal rights, and access to opportunity and democracy that we advocate externally.  We aim to be transparent about our operations and our grantmaking and to solicit feedback from our nonprofit and philanthropic partners on how our processes could be improved for the mutual benefit.

Entrepreneurship: Recognizing the entrepreneurial spirit of our founders, we encourage our staff and colleagues to make well-informed and calculated risks to advance social change. We accept challenges, invest in promising start-up projects, and nurture our grantees through difficult times.

Leadership: The Brett Family Foundation trustees and staff contribute to the dialogue, vision, and direction of the field of philanthropy and the progressive movement in Colorado.  We invest financial and human resources in the development and support of nonprofit leaders.

Leverage: The value of our grantmaking is much bigger than the limited grant dollars we award every year.  We consistently utilize our networks and relationships in the philanthropic and individual donor communities to bring additional attention and resources to our grantees.

Partnerships: We develop long-term relationships with our grantees and other partners to learn from their expertise, assess their overall needs, share insight into the field of philanthropy, and advance complimentary goals.  We encourage and support inter-organization and cross-sector partnerships and collaborations among and between our grantees and other partners.  We provide sustainable, general operating, multi-year funding to our grantees.

Respect: We treat our colleagues, staff, nonprofits, and partners with respect.  We are constantly listening, learning, and growing as grantmakers.

Strategic: We recognize that our grantmaking resources are limited.  Therefore, we can achieve the greatest results through focused and strategic grantmaking.

Our Approach:

The Foundation's giving is concentrated in three program areas: Social Justice, Media, and Direct Services in Boulder County.

Our Social Justice Program provides support for organizations throughout the state of Colorado working to address the root causes of social, economic, gender and racial inequities through strategies that empower affected communities to engage in the democratic process and advance progressive policy solutions. Critical to this program area is the belief that government can and should be an enterprise for the public good and that progressive public policies, community-based organizing, and civic participation can create a more compassionate and just society.

Our Media Grantmaking supports organizations that work in the state of Colorado to sustain a healthy news ecosystem supporting a strong civil society. We make media investments primarily to organizations that work in the following fields: Public Interest Journalism, News Literacy, and Engaged Communities. 

Our Direct Services Program supports Boulder County nonprofits that provide services and support for underserved and frequently marginalized populations with an emphasis on programs for disadvantaged and at-risk youth ages 12 through 18.

For more information on these programs, please see our guidelines.