Nancy Jacobs and Mark Sandercott grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan, respectively. Nancy and Mark met in the early 1980s, when they each moved to the Twin Cities in pursuit of new goals and opportunities. Their shared Midwestern values, delight in the great outdoors and a genuine enjoyment of people, fueled their desire to spend time together pursuing their passions. Through community volunteering, they discovered a joy that ignited their friendship into a relationship of mutual love and commitment that extended beyond them. The couple complemented one another’s dreams and visions, which sparked creative ways to give back to their local community and to humanity.
Philanthropy seeds planted
Mark and Nancy’s interests in philanthropy began as a result of their opportunities to travel and volunteer in economically developing nations across the globe. This focus deepened when they realized through their own early life family experiences, and later raising children, and Nancy’s inner city work as a family educator, the undeniable level and quantity of need for youth development opportunities and stabilizing support to families. By the early 2000’s the seeds of their philanthropy were planted, and they began to expand their catalytic visions for something more.
Reflectively, the founders asked themselves questions such as, “What if…?” and “Could we actually…?” In 2003, with the encouragement of family and friends, the help of professionals with“how to” knowledge, and their own convictions, they birthed Sundance Family Foundation. After preliminary creative work and exploration, Nancy and Mark began to assemble a small, diverse and talented board of directors from an array of capable people from the community—an unusual course of action for a private family foundation. For two years, the Sundance board met energetically for monthly board meetings, committee meetings, attended workshops, gained support from experts and read copiously to achieve the insight and education necessary to define and refine the essence of Sundance Family Foundation.
Why the Switch to Earn&Learn?
Nancy and Mark feel fortunate to be aligned with dozens of successful youth and family-enhancing programs, as well as with colleges, funders, advocates and researchers who are expanding the successful efforts of YSEs (Youth Social Entrepreneurship). YSE program evaluation conducted over 36-months by Wilder Research reveals that as youth receive support to discover their own voice or personal agency through social and emotional skills development, create community connections to increase their social capital, and find pathways to 21st century careers where they can Earn&Learn, their families and communities also become stronger and more empowered.
What does the future hold for the Sundance Family Foundation?
The Foundation will continue to be known as a thought leader and a catalytic connector in the field of YSE. Sundance has commissioned academic research looking at commonalities, outcomes, and youth engagement, analyzing data from YSE programs across the nation. This data has shown a disconnect between the amazing training provided to youth and their transition to fulfilling careers.
Yet, in low-income areas of the Twin Cities, and in communities of color, youth are looking at 16-23% unemployment in an era of an overall 3.2% unemployment. These training programs need more to create a pathway to 21st century careers.
As a result, Sundance is now focusing on creating Earn&Learn pathways that help develop youth-focused workforce development systems. These systems include the elements found in the earlier YSE work, yet these elements are now provided in collaboration with multiple partners so that youth can indeed Earn&Learn their way to a bright future.
Why the name Sundance Family Foundation?
Mark and Nancy, through Sundance Family Foundation support programs which aspire to serve others with a vision: to assist more youth and families in the universal right to “walk, run, and dance in the sunlight” of their own lives. Their logo, a vibrantly-colored sun, whose rays can also be construed as a moving footprint, capture the essence of their brand, vision, ethics and beliefs.
Social Impact Investing
Nancy and Mark have been adamant that Social Impact Investing strategies enable their financial investments in the foundation to both produce economic outcomes and to support ethical and sound business practices. Sundance has committed 85% of their corpus to Socially Responsible Investing, and has been a national leader in Stakeholder Advocacy. Sundance has used ESG (environmental, social and governance) screens in an effort to align its investments with its values by bring capital to and create loan opportunities for community social development and renovation projects in an effort to do well by doing good.
For more information on Sundance’s Socially Responsible Investing go here.