Swift Foundation was incorporated shortly after United Parcel Service went public in 1999. For the first time in 92 years shares of stock were offered to the public and the founder, John Swift, chose to diversify family-held ownership by creating a foundation. John has long been a committed supporter of organizations with a global focus on protecting the environment, investing in community wellbeing, and promoting sustainable agriculture. For the next ten years, Swift Foundation focused on environmental conservation around the world.
In 2009, Swift Foundation tripled in size with the proceeds from another family foundation. At this time, John invited his daughters Sonja and Karen to join the board, launching a new chapter for the foundation with an expansion of the mission toward a bio-cultural framework that respects Indigenous peoples as crucial leaders in protecting biodiversity, or in other words, people’s beloved home territories.
This also led to a radical revision of how the foundation managed the endowment, leading to Swift Foundation’s first mission-related investment policy and subsequent work toward greater coherency and accountability in how the investments align with the mission.
In 2011, Jen Astone was hired as managing director, now executive director, and began a process of expanding the scope of grantee-partners and integrating the vision of grants and investments as equally important tools in achieving our mission.
In 2016, Galina Angarova was hired as our first Program Officer. With a background as an activist fighting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the environment in Russia and the United Nations system, Galina brings the perspective of a grant seeker and policy maker into our daily work deepening our solidarity with our partners and widening our perspective as a foundation.
The Swift family asked Jeannette Armstrong, an Indigenous activist, teacher and writer from the Okanagan Nation, to join the board in 2013 as our first external board member. Jonathan Lewis, a pioneer social entrepreneur from California, was invited to join as the second board member in 2016. Jonathan left the board in 2018. Two new board members, Humberto Rios Labrada, an agronomist, and Y. Elaine Rassmusen, a social impact entrepreneur, joined the board in 2018.
The board is committed to widening the circle further and is grateful for the guidance and wisdom that a broader range of perspectives offers. To this end, we maintain a practice of inviting visiting advisors, often grantee-partners, to each board meeting to enrich and strengthen the programming work and for greater transparency.