"Small But Meaningful." The Rumphius Foundation's Approachable Grantmaking

Former bank president and school CFO Mike Schuller was known for always trying to make the world better in “small but meaningful ways.” Since his passing in 2013 after a battle with cancer, his family has started a grantmaking program to carry on his dedication to the environment and education.

One of Schuller’s favorite children’s books, Miss Rumphius, features a character determined to make the world just a little more beautiful than she found it, a principle that family members say guided the life of the Delaware resident. In that spirit, the foundation in his memory is called the Rumphius Foundation, which made its first round of grants in the spring. 

Related: Rumphius Foundation: Grants for Conservation

Schuller was formerly president of Bank Meridian in New Hampshire, and then went on to serve as CFO of two schools, one in Massachusetts and another in Delaware. In addition to his enthusiasm for education, he was an avid environmentalist, working with groups like Friends of Acadia and Clean the Bay. During his time working at St. Andrew’s School, he spearheaded the construction of its first LEED Gold building, and advocated for solar energy and reforesting.

The Rumphius Foundation’s mission is to strengthen community, promote education and protect the environment, with its first two grants sort of tying the concepts together.  

The first grantee is the Telling Room, an organization in Portland, Maine that teaches literacy, sustainable agriculture, and cooking skills to teens from the city’s immigrant and refugee community. 

The foundation’s second grant is a student-run initiative to develop an organic garden while learning about sustainable agriculture and food systems. The grant will support a 48-foot-long tunnel “hoop house” that will increase the number of students involved and extend the time of the year they can use it. 

One nice thing about this family foundation is that while it is small, entirely family run and only planning to give a couple of grants a year, it is still highly inviting and open to new grantees. Rumphius plans to track the progress of grantees on its website and in newsletters. And while Rumphius started with funding from the Schullers, the foundation hopes to grow with new donations. 

We write about a lot of foundations, and it’s easy to get a bit cynical about bloated programs or even family foundations putting up wall after wall between them and the public. It’s always refreshing to learn about a new funder driven by the enthusiasm of a family wanting to do small but meaningful acts, and inviting more people to get involved, maybe making those acts not quite so small. 

Read more about the Rumphius Foundation at our profile and its website