Stephanie Randolph, blue moon fund

How did you get involved with the Appalachia Funders Network?

blue moon fund was an early partner of AFN.  As my role at bmf expanded to include our domestic portfolio, I was excited to participate at the Gathering and sharing between the working groups.  Having previously lived in Webster County, WV I was excited to reconnect and expand my professional network to include leaders and innovators from across the region.

What first sparked your interest in philanthropy?

When I was in middle school, the inner city high school where my mother worked received a small, three year grant from the Carnegie Foundation.  Watching a small band of teachers rally around this opportunity and transform the lives of 60 students in the first year had a profound effect on me.  The three year grant from Carnegie became a ten year initiative, funded by multiple entities, which transformed the school and had a significant impact on the City.  This gave me a firsthand look at the impact and potential of strategic philanthropic engagement.

What do you hope to accomplish with the energy and natural resources working group?

The ENRWG has come a long way in our first year.  Energy and natural resources play such a historic roll in both our assets and deficits in Appalachia. They have such a strong influence on cultural heritage, geography that people love about Appalachia. The ENRWG is eager to help align philanthropic dollars with both the grassroots and federal efforts to help communities leverage their energy and natural resource assets to promote clean energy and sustainable economies.

How has your involvement with AFN affected your work at blue moon fund?

So much is happening right now in Appalachia. It is such a quick moving opportunity. AFN and the connections I have through the Network are my go-to sources for up to date information and for insights on the ground. blue moon fund is not just based in Appalachia. We are an international organization and my portfolio includes Appalachia, all of Virginia and coastal Louisiana. The online resources, my network colleagues and fantastic grantee partners: all are my sources for what’s current, where financing is coming from, what’s predicted, and what’s vulnerable.

What do you see as the role of blue moon fund in the Appalachian transition?

blue moon is in the midst of our sunset; we are spending down our assets. I see blue moon’s role to make strategic investments that leverage the opportunities that are in front of us today. Our investments are now very time and place bound. What can be done now that can’t be done later?  How can we use our funds to tee up the dollars in years 3, 4, and 5 when we won’t be here? How can we help the region prepare for our absence? The JTF is an example that meets those needs at a perfect time.  bmf funds contributed to the JTF have immediate impact, furthering the transition in Appalachia while at the same time building out a new grantmaking vehicle that other regional and national foundations can engage with.  It’s the perfect mix of time-bound investments in projects, program expansion, and advocacy that helps the region grow its capacity to harness and impactfully utilize and align federal and philanthropic dollars.

Who do you look to in the fields of philanthropy, community development, or environmental conservation for inspiration?

I find inspiration every day. I find it in our grantee partners. I find inspiration in their brilliance and in their excitement over the potential and in their tenacity. I find inspiration sharing ideas, challenges and opportunities with other funders as well.  I also try to stay close to my roots, which allows me to fully appreciate the opportunity I have to help impact change.  I saw the impact philanthropy has as a child and I have lived it myself.  In 2004, I was living in Webster County, WV.  The Benedum Foundation, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation and the Ford Foundation were aligning their efforts to promote local leadership development and the creation of community-based philanthropy. Those dollars helped me start one community fund and one free-standing community foundation in West Virginia.  And equally as important, those funds helped me personally connect with many of the people who are now in this network and they provided me with a critical link to leadership development and engaged and inspired philanthropy. It is inspiring to know the value philanthropic dollars can have on not just communities but the individuals as well.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I have an amazing nine year old daughter who inspires and challenges me. While we now live in Charlottesville, my husband and I still have our home in West Virginia where we harvest 45-50 lbs of garlic annually.  On weekends we love hiking and visiting farmers markets.