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Next-gen Jaimie Mayer to shake-up family foundation as new chair

By James Beech

The first fourth-generation family member to lead the Nathan Cummings Foundation says a root and branch restructuring of the New York-based philanthropic institution is the best way to honour her family’s legacy.

Jaimie Mayer, the 36-year-old great-granddaughter of the founding Canadian-born US businessman, investor and philanthropist, succeeded Ruth Cummings as chair of the board of trustees.

Mayer looked set to introduce changes in culture and policy, and movement building at the 30-year-old family foundation.

“We need to not only fund trailblazers and risk-takers, but hold ourselves accountable to blazing our own trails, and taking our own risks,” Mayer said in a statement.

“The best way to honour my family’s legacy is to break down old silos and create new rules, new systems, and new behaviours not only in our grant making, but in our day-to-day operations as well. That, above all else, will inspire the next generation of philanthropic leaders.”

Mayer said the foundation should hold itself and the philanthropic sector accountable to core values, principles, and commitments.

“That includes looking at how we take on issues of race, power, and privilege internally and externally. Everything from where we invest our endowment, to who we hire, to who we give grants to, shows what we value in the world. Now more than ever, we need to interrogate what it means—and what it takes—to create meaningful change.”

The Nathan Cummings Foundation is a multigenerational family entity, “rooted in the Jewish tradition of social justice, working to create a more just, vibrant, sustainable, and democratic society.”

The foundation said it granted $500 million to movements, organisations and individuals pursuing justice for people and the planet over the past 27 years.

Jaimie Mayer was the granddaughter of its first board chair, the late Beatrice “Buddy” Cummings Mayer, and served as a trustee for 18 years. The millennial worked with philanthropists in their 20s and 30s, with families trying to integrate the next generation, and with non-profits cultivating next-gen leaders. 

Ruth Cummings said Mayer’s appointment was an “important milestone” in the life of the foundation, which represented the family’s philanthropic mission, intentionally investing and growing generational leadership.

“I am excited to see Jaimie lead us and bring her clear vision to our work,” Cummings said.

“Her passion for social justice will deepen the partnership among board and staff and in the fields and issues we seek to influence.”