You could say that Ann Lovell has centered her philanthropic career around collaborating and convening people. It’s the act of coming together with others—and supporting others to do the same—that has allowed her to do more than she could on her own.
“The hardest lesson I’ve learned as a philanthropist? It’s not easy giving away money responsively. It takes a lot of thought. I never wanted to do it by myself. I want the expertise of other people to help make better decisions,” says Lovell.
“It’s not easy giving away money responsively. It takes a lot of thought. I never wanted to do it by myself. I want the expertise of other people to help make better decisions.”
Lovell is president of the David and Lura Lovell Foundation in Tucson, Arizona, and founder of The Valley Foundation, which provides scholarships in Southern Arizona. She is also a founding board member of Social Venture Partners Greater Tucson, and founding director and president of Women Moving Millions. (All this, in addition to her 30-year career as a CPA, and being a mom to six grown children.)
Lovell also spent more than a decade as founding director and treasurer to The Bravewell Collaborative (2002–2015), a funder collaborative working to advance integrative medicine. Bravewell began when a small group of funders joined in conversation with physicians in the field of integrative medicine to discuss ways to solve the growing health care crisis.
“As a funder, I can’t identify a solution if I have never lived the problem. With Bravewell, we asked the people on the frontlines, the people working in medicine everyday—doctors, nurses, hospitals—what do you need?” says Lovell. What people said they needed most was the ability to convene themselves. Bravewell supported them in doing that.
“We convened the people who had a stake in the issue—people for whom it mattered. We wanted those voices at the table, and by the simple act of bringing people together regularly, it led to better initiatives, better plans, better ideas.”
“By the simple act of bringing people together regularly, it led to better initiatives, better plans, better ideas.”
As with any group, it took time to build trust and respect, she says. Yet the time was well spent. “People have a hunger to get together, and need to convene on an ongoing basis. Because when it comes to change, one-offs don’t work.”
Through work with The Bravewell Collaborative, Lovell and other members of the family foundation became interested in end-of-life care. The Lovell Foundation funded “Passing On,” an award-winning documentary produced by Arizona Public Media and broadcasted nationally by PBS.
“The Lovell Foundation did a community-wide scan on end-of-life issues, and we discovered a group of dedicated organizations and individuals that were already working together on these issues. To help them formalize their efforts, we hired a consultant to work with them; we gave a partnership grant for United Way to house them and provided back-end services; and we offered our foundation space as a place for them to convene,” says Lovell.
In 2017, the Lovell Foundation partnered with the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona to award funding to Arizona nonprofits that are cooperatively addressing end-of-life care, particularly for underserved and vulnerable communities. This private foundation–community foundation partnership is but another example of how Lovell convenes for the greater good.
“Being fed by our own passions is one thing—but holding hands with others who are trying to do similar work? That’s another thing entirely.”
“Between our foundation and the community foundation, we looked at what we could each do separately, and what we could do together. In all, we committed more than $3 million on this issue.” Lovell hopes these multiyear grants will help grow a change network by empowering organizations that are addressing hospice care issues and the universal experiences of death, dying, and grieving. In this case, convening with others has fostered one of the largest end-of-life care initiatives in the nation.
“For funders to create enormous change, we have to bring all the changemakers to the table. Being fed by our own passions is one thing—but holding hands with others who are trying to do similar work? That’s another thing entirely.”