Healthy Rivers, Healthy Communities!

The Big River Foundation is the latest recipient of a grant award from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. John’s and Laura’s latest project is the Giving Library. It started when the young billionaire couple began looking for worthy nonprofits to support. John Arnold was a hedge fund manager known on Wall Street as “the king of natural gas”. He and Laura signed the Giving Pledge in 2010 when their foundation had assets of $711 million in order to devote more time to philanthropy. They share an office in Houston Texas.
According to Forbes the Arnold’s “had the time and money to spend on the searches and meetings with executive directors. They soon realized that it not a smart use of anyone’s time. Most philanthropists were only getting exposed to a small handful of nonprofits, while executive directors were being forced to spend an inordinate amount of their time on fund-raising.” They beginning brainstorming a better way to identify worthy organizations and connect them with philanthropists.
Laura Arnold explained, “we saw a need to create more efficiency in the system to have a more organized vision of receiving and processing information on nonprofits.” Her husband added, “We started to do our own research, trying to go to websites to read about nonprofits. We realized we got much more insight by speaking to the founder. If you have significant resources, it’s worth their time to sit down and meet a particular funder but that’s not always practical for the majority of funders or nonprofits.”
Forbes’ Louisa Kroll described the concept behind the Giving Library as a collection of videos of charitable organizations on-line, “to allow them to tell their stories in a deeper way to a much broader audience. For starters, they sent hundreds of letters to nonprofits, some of which they knew (Teach for America, the Innocence Project, and KIPP schools are all groups that the Arnold’s have personally backed that have videos posted), but plenty that they didn’t. There were no filters in terms of substance or geography; the only requirement was that it had to be vetted and confirmed.”
The goal of the Giving Library is to feature 250 charities to help philanthropists learn about the nonprofits. The Big River Foundation (BRF) was selected for inclusion based on its mission … from more than 3,000 applications. The Laredo-based foundation’s mission is to teach communities in The Americas to value the vital role rivers play in the web of life. The foundation presently incubates programs in the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama to foster respect and appreciation for river ecology and conservation, encouraging kayaking, canoeing, and rafting to explore rivers, their tributaries and watersheds. They sponsor programs in partnership with schools, youth groups, local governments, non-governmental organizations, river outfitters, and community advocates. Through experiential education, recreation and advocacy, the foundation mobilizes community support for river-based initiatives throughout the hemisphere.
BRF Executive Director Eric Ellman will get the VIP treatment next month while being flown to the Giving Library’s production studio in Houston, Texas. He will be filmed talking about the amazing work his foundation performs on the Rio Grande in Mexico & the USA and an upcoming documentary about watershed conservation based in Costa Rica & Panama.  This film is being produced by award-winning documentary filmmakers Jeffrey Porter and Tony Pagano in collaboration with Jennifer Long & Stephen Kaczor. The documentary extrapolates the experiences of the indigenous Naso Tribe in the last kingdom in the Americas in their epic struggle against the latest conquistadors, corporations flying the flags of profit in the Naso’s ancestral territory.
Recent bi-national events in the USA and Mexico will be discussed tonight in Texas as Laredo’s City Council considers the renewal of annual funding for the Big River Foundation. The foundation’s city and county funding will be matched by the Meadows Foundation of Dallas, Texas, to support efforts to repair the reputation of the controversial Rio Grande, known in Mexico as the Rio Bravo. This river is one of the largest in the hemisphere. It joins two nations; life in this desert region would be impossible without it.
The Giving Libary video will feature BRF’s  mission on-line for philanthropists world-wide who are seeking worthwhile endeavors to support. Laura & John will unite their foundations’ staff with BRF’s to co-create a video in interviews describing programs for “Healthy Rivers, Healthy Communities”. Eric will share his foundation’s philosophy, a vision shared by Baba Dioum, Founder of International Union for the Conservation of Nature, “In the end, we conserve only what we love; we love only what we understand; and we understand only what we have been taught”.

El Lider’s story in this morning’s paper about the Big River Foundation.


About Stephen Kaczor

Co-Founder, Big River Foundation; Writer, Alternative Emerging Investor; Producer, Grandmother Water; Organic Farmer in Panama
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