Tackling Succession Planning: The Charles J. Strosacker Foundation

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mike Gallagher
CMF Editorial Correspondent

In 2012, the board members of The Charles J. Strosacker Foundation sat down for a very serious talk.

On the agenda was a discussion about whether or not to continue the Midland-based family foundation, hire an executive director to run the organization or simply spend-out and close its doors.    

“When we were done it was clear we all wanted it to remain a family foundation,” says Bobbie Arnold, president/CEO.

That decision led to another in-depth dialogue, this time about succession planning. Thanks to a prior agreement among the trustees, the process necessary to incorporate the next generation into the family’s philanthropy was already in place.

My husband, David Arnold, is the chairman of the foundation and he is the (direct Strosacker) family member,” says Bobbie. He has two cousins who also are part of the Strosacker family. We have a daughter – Kim Arnold Baczewski – and one of the cousins has a daughter – Charlie Thrune-Lundquist – both who live in Michigan.”

About 10 years ago, the foundation trustees, who include both family members and community representatives, asked Baczewski and Thrune-Lundquist to become associate board members and they accepted.

“This was the start of our succession effort even though at the time we hadn’t really put a lot of thought into that,” admits Bobbie. “We were younger then. But two summers ago, when we decided to keep the family foundation operating, we knew we had to make some changes.”

The foundation leaders then asked Baczewski and Thrune-Lundquist to take the next step and become members of the executive and investment committees and the full board.

“Kim and Charlie both said they would be happy to as they wanted to see the foundation continue,” says Bobbie.

“I really enjoy the work of the foundation…and wanted to be a part of its growth,” adds Thrune-Lundquist.

The trustees recognized, however, that with youth and inexperience comes the need for training. Marian Cimbalik, a long-time administrative assistant for the foundation, suggested Baczewski should learn all aspects of Cimbalik’s work to ensure that someone younger would be familiar with all the foundation’s operational requirements.

Baczewski also agreed to job-shadow her mother at meetings and events to learn the ropes

Two years later, says Bobbie, “My daughter knows the foundation from the inside out.”

 But the succession work didn’t end there.

“The board also brought on my daughter Kari Lyons and my son E.J. Arnold as the new associate trustees, so now we have the people in place to carry on for years to come,” notes a proud Bobbie.

Today, with the help of succession planning tools and workshops provided by the Council of Michigan Foundations, Bobbie says, “Our family foundation is on solid ground for decades to come.”

Asked to provide advice for other foundation members thinking about succession planning, Arnold adds, “We believe if at all possible all family members need to be involved in their foundation as much as they want to be. If you can get the next generation involved;it will leave your foundation in good hands for at least the next 30 years.”

Another tip from Arnold: “The older generation needs to know when it’s time to get out of the way and let them take over!”

 

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