Family and governance
Founded in 1992, the Butler Family Fund has always threaded together the values of family and social justice. Our founding board was comprised of the seven nieces and nephews of Zella and Jack Butler. They wanted the Fund’s work to mirror the overarching principles of their Aunt and Uncle’s lives: respect for all human beings, enhancement of individual opportunities, and a concern for the less fortunate in our society. As one of America’s preeminent public interest lawyers and a lifelong advocate for citizens’ rights and justice, our founding board chair, Alan Morrison, created an indelible imprint by ensuring that policy, advocacy, and long term change were integral to our work.
Recognizing the importance of family, the founding board made an intentional effort to engage their children, who began serving on the board early on. The original board turned over control of the foundation to their children in December 2006. For further information about our history and generational transition, see the Butler Family Fund, The First Ten Years.
Today the board is made up of the extended Butler family, with rotating terms to ensure that second generation members have an opportunity to serve. The board is led by Eve Wildrick, an entrepreneurial businesswoman who believes the Fund should extend its reach and expand its work as much as possible. Since 2007, the Butler Family Fund has strengthened its collaborations with other foundations. These collaborations include an ongoing partnership with the Oak Foundation in which the Fund serves as an intermediary to help prevent and end homelessness, and a long-term funding collaboration to abolish the death penalty.
The board of the Butler Family Fund meets and awards grants twice a year. The Fund does not make grants in between board meetings, and does not accept unsolicited proposals.
The Butler Family Fund’s original two program areas were homelessness and at-risk youth. Over time, the Fund moved from at-risk youth to criminal justice reform, including specific grants in drug policy reform. Drug policy reform and over incarceration are now subsumed under the Fund’s criminal justice portfolio. The Fund has also given extensive support to global warming advocacy during its history.
Martha Anne Toll served as the Butler Family Fund’s founding Executive Director from 1993 to 2020. With Butler’s Board, Martha helped build a cutting-edge, internationally recognized grantmaking program. The Fund developed two major funding areas under her leadership: (1) advocacy to prevent and end homelessness and (2) advocacy to reform criminal justice, with particular focus on abolishing the death penalty and ending the sentence of juvenile life without parole. Martha led the formation of a long-term partnership with the Geneva-based Oak Foundation, catalyzing work around employing people experiencing homelessness, severing the connections between homelessness and criminal justice, and de-funding the criminal justice system. Martha now works full-time as a writer. Her debut novel, THREE MUSES, is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing (Fall 2022).