Thoughtful Philanthropy

Donors Charlie and Nancy Dunn's support for education and educated giving

Self-described as “small fish in a small pond,” Charlie Dunn and his wife, Nancy, opened a donor-advised fund with the Foundation in 2011 after selling a family business. Charlie states, “We felt compelled to open the Charles & Nancy Dunn Family Fund to support quality education initiatives and related needs in the community.”

Both life-long Rhode Islanders, Charlie and Nancy married and moved to Providence to raise their children. Charlie, an alumnus of Brown University, and Nancy, a graduate of Wheaton College, greatly valued their education and wanted to instill those same values in their daughters. “Early on, we considered education, and the quality of an education, to be really important…it helped us and our children achieve things we never imagined,” says Nancy.

Even before they opened their fund at the Foundation, the Dunns contributed to organizations involved with education, and they began to witness the positive ripple effects of their support into the community. As their interest in the sector grew, they also started to think about how to focus their giving. “The Rhode Island Foundation offered the best thinking about where you go to make gifts and grants,” Nancy answered, when asked why they chose the Foundation for their philanthropic investment. Charlie echoes, “...the Foundation offered a guide path—guidance to make good decisions, building trust—you can make one phone call and questions are answered.”

Charlie and Nancy continue to reflect upon and focus their giving in thoughtful new ways. Alongside education, they support women’s health and nature conservation. As the ability to prosper has become harder and harder in the current economic environment, the Dunns want to learn more about the ever-increasing issues of homelessness, food insecurity, and other basic human needs. Through the Foundation, Charlie and Nancy also have co-funded other initiatives and appreciate it when the Foundation brings opportunities for support to them — “we learned about opportunities we would never have known about.”

The Dunns approach their philanthropy with sincere humility and gratitude, believing they are not ‘special,’ but merely giving to help others. With regard to their experience working with the Foundation, Charlie and Nancy advise, “If you have the wherewithal to do this, would like to give back and don’t know where to start, we would recommend you start with the Rhode Island Foundation. If nothing else, you will learn from a most knowledgeable Rhode Island institution.”