Anne Gunsteens is executive director of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, a family foundation that focuses primarily on helping youth secure a promising future by supporting secondary and higher education, mentoring and youth leadership programs. Anne also serves as vice chair of the Public Education Working Group of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.
Member Profile October 2010
Years in position: 10
Years in philanthropy: 10
Where is home? Montgomery County; born and raised in the Midwest.
Years in DC region: 18 years
How did you get started in philanthropy? I was working in finance at Marriott when this role became available. It was an intriguing opportunity to use my finance experience and business strengths to help the Marriott family address critical community needs that are important to them, like education and youth leadership. I talked with Mr. Marriott and knew that this new career direction was going to be meaningful and fulfilling.
What's your favorite part about your job? Seeing the impact of our grants on the people who benefit, especially kids. I feel so fortunate to be an ambassador for the Marriott family, given all they have accomplished in business and what they are doing to create stronger communities. The Marriotts are very well-known, but humble – I admire that and appreciate that they’ve entrusted me with this opportunity to make a difference on issues like education that are important to all of us.
Biggest challenge you've faced: The everyday challenge of time. Since I was raised in the hospitality industry, I believe it’s important to read and respond personally to the hundreds of proposals we receive every year. What helps is our focus and funding strategy. When we see an effective program with strong leadership that aligns with our mission, we often provide general operating support. I say, “You know your priorities, and you know where you need it this year.” It’s worked really well for us and the nonprofits appreciate it as well.
Biggest/most exciting project you worked on in the past year: I have two -- education reform in DC and long-term disaster relief in New Orleans. I serve on the disaster relief fund committee for Marriott International. We just returned from a volunteer week in New Orleans at the five-year anniversary since Hurricane Katrina. The 1,800 Marriott associates there built homes with Habitat for Humanity, constructed playgrounds for KaBoom, and made donations supporting New Orleans school projects through Donors Choose, which the disaster relief fund then matched. Overall it was an amazing week, and all driven by the associates and what mattered to them.
What do you hope people will get out of Washington Grantmakers’ EDUTours series? I’m hoping people will see the extensive, positive changes that have happened in DC Public Schools in recent years, and I hope they will talk about it. I think that supporters of the reform effort need to be more vocal, in addition to supporting it through our grantmaking.
“When I’m not working, I’m:” spending time and enjoying the everyday moments with my family. My volunteer work on two nonprofit boards, Montgomery College Foundation and the Association for Small Foundations is very rewarding. And I just love being outside -- to snow ski, garden, and hang out with my new side-kick, an Australian Shepherd puppy named Teddy.
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