Our Farewell

With the passing of both our founders, Howard A. Friedman and most recently Phyllis K. Friedman, we have decided to close the Friedman Family Foundation after 32 years.

We will be closing the Friedman Family Foundation in 2022 with Capstone Grants to our core long-term grantees. The remaining assets will be distributed to successor philanthropic efforts of the three trustees.

The most important legacy of the Friedman Family Foundation is the organizations and efforts it has been our honor and privilege to support. We are grateful for their work in creating a more equitable society for all. We are also deeply grateful to Lisa Kawahara, who not only coordinated our efforts but devotedly embodied our values for over three decades.

In our mother’s letter stating the purpose and aspirations of the Friedman Family Foundation, she wrote these words that have guided us over these decades:

We are a small but growing family foundation seeking to make a difference in a world of many needs.

As a family foundation, we seek to express and further the values we were taught: a respect for the capabilities and dignity of all people, a belief in the power of ideas and in individual empowerment, a commitment to systemic change, a reverence for learning, faith in the ability to create a better world and an obligation to the San Francisco Bay Area that has been our family home for five generations.

The focus of our grantmaking is the systemic reduction of poverty. We believe that this society must find ways to expand the opportunity to produce. We must introduce new programs and policies that allow those on the margins of the economy a reasonable chance to craft their own futures.

We are looking for model organizations with an effective track record and for new projects which offer innovative changes likely to create a broad impact or which provide a lasting impact on fewer lives.

Although our grants were small, we tried to leverage their impact by identifying systemic attempts to enlarge economic participation, such as social entrepreneurship and inclusive wealth-building for those excluded and discriminated against with multi-year and general support grants.  These organizations and leaders are on the frontier of economic inclusion, providing seminal models in the fields of microenterprise, financial asset-building, and economic development.

Here are some of the lessons we learned from our grantees:

  • Never underestimate the talent of low-income communities and communities of color. People are incredible given opportunity and resources.
  • Never underestimate the talent of low-income communities and communities of color. People are incredible given opportunity and resources.
  • A foundation is only as good as its grantees. Ours are amazing.
  • Part of the answer to reducing poverty lies in empowering and investing in the entrepreneurship, leadership, talent and vision of economically marginalized people.
  • Organizational leaders, staff and boards of directors should reflect the communities they work to uphold.
  • Give longer term general support without extensive reporting.
  • Support advocacy and policy change to create long term structural impact.
  • Invest with attention to social, environmental, and economic impact.
  • Meet with and learn from your grantees and connect them to each other.
  • Love people, not philanthropy.

Our mother often said about philanthropy, “It’s not the Friedman Family Foundation who is making the difference; it’s those out there doing the work who are making the difference. We simply have the privilege of supporting them.” For over these three decades, we followed the efforts of all of our grantees. We are closing with immense appreciation of work done and commitment to the work to be done.


  • Eleanor Friedman
  • David Friedman
  • Robert Friedman

Friedman Family Foundation Trustees