FUNDING AREAS: Inflammatory bowel disease research, student literacy in Oakland, California, and arts in the Bay Area
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PROFILE: Jennifer Rainin, daughter of medical product company entrepreneur Kenneth Rainin, has been running her dad’s foundation since its public launch in 2009. But she isn’t just the daughter of a wealthy philanthropist; she’s an experienced professional with a unique background in each of the foundation’s grantmaking areas.
“Each year, the foundation will increase its funding and eventually will grant nationally,” Rainin told Girls That Roam magazine. “It’s an unbelievable gift that he’s left behind for me. He basically left me a fairy godmother.”
Before stepping into the role of CEO at the Rainin Foundation, Jennifer earned a doctorate in education at the University of Illinois, Chicago and worked as a teacher and literacy specialist. This positioned her well for her her current role, where she has focused the foundation’s grantmaking efforts on the city of Oakland, which has historically lagged behind the rest of the Bay Area for childhood literacy rates. In addition to the education grantmaking program, she has helped developed the Rainin Oakland Preschool Initiative, which supports literacy development for children from birth to third grade.
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s health grantmaking program is focused squarely on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) research. She launched the foundation’s Innovations Symposium, an annual event that encourages collaboration across scientific disciplines to approach IBD research and find a cure. At the 2013 Innovations Symposium, Rainin said:
People suffering from IBD need a breakthrough and that’s exactly what we’re hoping to elicit with our programs. We take risks and invest early in ways that other funders do not, and we look for researchers who take original and inventive approaches to IBD research. Our health grant programs support research from all scientific disciplines and encourage collaboration to find new and better treatments for IBD. Every year promising projects are presented to the Foundation, increasing our optimism that eradicating IBD is possible.
Rainin has been battling serious health issues of her own since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1997, a disease that also afflicted her father. But she’s also taken part in fundraising efforts for HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, and cystic fibrosis research.
Rainin has a lesser-known artistic side as well. While working as an actress in the Bay Area, she volunteered to help produce the San Francisco International Film Festival. She is known for her acting roles in “The Four Twenty-One” (2009), and “Jack & Jill” (2006). As a founding member of the San Francisco Ballet’s Encore Group, she worked to expose ballet to younger generations. More recently, Jennifer created the Visibility and Impact Awards for performing arts organizations in the Bay Area and worked with the San Francisco Film Society to establish the foundation’s Filmmaker Awards.
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation doesn't fund in the LGBT space, but Rainin knows some of these issues first- hand. She married a brokerage firm vice president, Chris Patterson, in New Orleans back in 1997. But she is currently married to Frances Stevens, with whome she said “I do” in 2009, though their marriage wasn’t legally recognized until it was made official in San Francisco’s City Hall on June 28, 2013. They are raising two sons together. "To have a president actually say he believes we should be treated equal is extremely moving," Frances Rainin-Stevens commented after President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech.