It’s Foundation Friday, and we are excited to share an inside look into the amazing work that our client, The Reid Burns Foundation, is doing to support wildlife conservation. In our recent two-part interview with Chris Burns, President of the Reid Burns Foundation, he shared what inspired him to start his foundation, current projects and initiatives he’s excited about, his foundation’s accomplishments, and more! Read on for part one of our interview!
About Your Philanthropy
What inspired you to start your foundation?
Retirement was looming and I needed something that I was passionate about that would be rewarding for me to be involved with. Thankfully, I had the means to redirect some funds to the starting of a foundation which would focus on wildlife conservation and related issues, which I believe is fundamental to the continued health of the planet as we face unprecedented effects of climate change, pollution and habitat destruction.
What causes are you most passionate about?
I believe that the natural world has suffered beyond our imagination due to the unprecedented growth of industrial societies. Priorities have focused on the growing economy at the expense of nature. I want to redress that balance as much as I can. I am certain that the world (including human societies) would benefit from a balanced and sustainable approach to growth.
What projects/initiatives are you excited about currently?
Seed Madagascar Project: I am contributing to the Seed Madagascar’s Project Ala in the Southwest of Madagascar which was running short of funds. This is a project to plant seedlings between segmented areas of the forest to allow lemurs and other wildlife to reconnect across these forest segments. It is important that these animals have a contiguous forest area to roam and meet potential mates. Without this effort, many species would find themselves isolated and critically endangered.
The Orangutan Project: The Orangutan Project in Indonesia is dedicated to providing protected areas for these great apes and also providing a safe haven and rehabilitation for those that have been orphaned or isolated due to palm oil plantations’ impact and poaching. They are making great strides to put aside protected forest regions and fund rehab centers.
Marine Mammal Center: I have contributed to the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County and also provided funds to assist in the funding of a new hospital for Sea Turtle Inc. on South Padre Island, Texas. During the winter freeze months of February, many sea turtles lose their ability to raise their heads to breath and need rescuing and warming up before being released again. Turtles are also found entangled in discarded fishing nets, which would result in them drowning unless rescued.
Ocean Cleanup: I am not restricting my contributions only to wildlife. I have been supporting the efforts by the Ocean Cleanup to remove plastic from the great pacific garbage patch and stop plastics from entering the ocean on major polluting rivers. They are making great progress and I believe that System 3, which is a scaled-up version of the floating collection mechanism, will start to make a real impact on the amount of plastic in the ocean. Microplastics are found in most sea birds and fish now and some sea birds and turtles ingest so much colorful plastic that they believe is edible that they eventually starve to death as they cannot digest the plastic and the pieces can be too large to travel through the gut.
Malala Fund: The Malala Fund is funding education for women throughout the third world and I feel that this is critical to economic well-being. Women can and should be very much the leaders when it comes to innovation and sustainability in traditionally poor countries.
Local Initiatives: During the pandemic in 2020, I was also able to reach out via a friend who attends a local church to two separate families that were suffering economic hardship and needed some funds to keep them going. The foundation provided the paperwork to allow this to happen.
What is one of your private foundation’s achievements that you are proud of and why?
I would have to choose the Seed Madagascar Project Ala since I am the sole contributor right now and I feel personally connected to its success as a result. I hope to visit them in the next year or two to witness the ongoing success of this project. One thing in particular that I am happy with is the involvement of the local community to assist in the project and provide education to encourage the protection of the animals in ways that also benefit the local population.
Can you tell us about a time when you were able to see the impact of your giving?
I was invited on an extensive tour of the renovated facilities at the Marine Mammal Center, and it was nice to see the number of seals that were being rescued and rehabilitated as a result of the volunteers and contributions made. I also recently witnessed the release of three young elephant seals at Pescadero State Beach, which was a great way to see the results of the contributions to the Marine Mammal Center.
In November, I am traveling to Uganda and Kenya. In Uganda, I will be visiting with the Gorilla Doctor team and will participate in a trek to see the gorillas in the wild. The second part of our trip will be in Kenya where we will be visiting the elephant orphanage on Nairobi and staying at one of the eco-lodges associated with the Sheldrick Foundation, where there is a co-located rehabilitation center for the elephants getting ready for release to the wild.
How do you stay connected with other philanthropists?
Generally using real or virtual conferences, and live broadcast updates over Zoom from particular charities.
Do you work with other funders? If so, how?
I have a friend who I play tennis with who also has his own foundation dedicated to sustainability. I have coordinated with him on joint projects to protect native species in Hawaii and provide education on ocean life and sustainability to high school students, recognizing that knowledge is power.
What would you want other philanthropists to know about your work?
I am trying to identify worthwhile charities that make a real difference with the aim of preserving our wildlife diversity and helping in cleanup and education to drive towards a sustainable future.
To learn more about the Reid Burns Foundation, stay tuned for part two of our interview! You can also checkout our other Foundation Friday features for more inspiration! (link to tag)
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