OVERVIEW: The Rumphius Foundation carries on the legacy of Mike Schuller, former bank president and school CFO who passed away in 2013, and was known in his life for a dedication to the environment and education. Its mission involves work that protects the environment, but also involves educating young people and improving communities.
IP TAKE: Rumphius is a small foundation, making only a couple of grants a year at this point, but is looking to build its resources with donations. It’s also notably accessible. The family makes grant decisions in the winter, with deadlines at the beginning of the year.
PROFILE: Mike Schuller passed away in 2013 after a long battle with cancer, and he and wife Candace Schuller launched the Rumphius Foundation to continue his lifelong dedication to community, the environment, and education. Schuller was a numbers guy by profession, formally head of a bank in New Hampshire, and then serving as CFO for two schools, one in Delaware and the other in Massachusetts.
But his loved ones remember him for his desire to always make the world a little bit better, whether that meant working with nonprofits like Friends of Acadia, Clean the Bay, or United Way, or just simple acts like picking up litter. The foundation is named for one of his favorite children’s books, Miss Rumphius, which is about a person who is similarly devoted to making small but meaningful improvements in the world.
The foundation is still very new, having just made its first round of two grants in 2014, and planning another one to two grants annually for the time being. But it’s also looking to expand its resources, seeking donations to build on the initial grant from Candace and Mike Schuller.
The funder’s mission is to make the world a little more beautiful, and “sow little seeds of hope and joy” to strengthen the community and protect the environment. As such, while the environment is key, so is education and otherwise inspiring young people.
The foundation’s first two grants went to projects that merge these themes. The first went to the Telling Room, an education program in Portland, Maine that serves the city’s immigrant and refugee community, teaching them literacy and sustainable urban farming skills. The second went to Schuller’s former school, St. Andrew’s, to expand an organic garden managed by students. This was one of the last green projects Mike Schuller worked on, so the grant went to finishing the job by expanding the garden with a tunnel “hoop house” that will extend the growing season and get more kids involved.
One of the more admirable things about Rumphius is that, even though it’s a small funder and just getting started, it’s highly inviting to new partners and grantees, encouraging organizations to apply, planning to track progress of projects it funds on its website, and seeking donations to build its momentum. It’s refreshing to see a grantmaking program, even one run by just family members, so eager to engage and talk to new grantees and the public.
A few notes for those considering approaching Rumphius: Grants are few, and in the $2,500 to $4,000 range. Funding decisions happen in the winter. The foundation also prefers projects that, aside from aligning with their mission, have a tangible goal, outcome, or end date.
Applications are accepted by email to Rumphius.Foundation@gmail.com or by mail to:
23A Johnson St.
Newburyport, MA 01950
- Candace Schuller, Rumphius Foundation Director