The K&F Baxter Foundation serves a historically overlooked group of children — those of multiracial lineage
Frank Baxter is retired, but he’s not relaxing. By his own admission, Baxter spends more time working on his current charitable and philanthropic ventures than he did three years ago working as the CEO of Jeffries and Company, an investment bank.
“Someone once called me a 501(c)(3) addict,” says Baxter. “I won’t deny it.”
Baxter is involved in nonprofits as an activist, board member and donor. He is chairman of the board for the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, a nonprofit working to open a network of high-achieving schools in historically underachieving and low-income areas of Los Angeles. He also sits on the board of the Small Schools Alliance, a coalition of leaders dedicated to reducing the size of every school in the Los Angeles Unified School District to fewer than 500 students.
And he does still more, serving as president of the Los Angeles Opera board and chairman of the executive committee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Baxter also supports Mills College, an all-women’s school; the University of California-Berkeley; and UCLA.
A significant portion of Baxter’s charitable work is tied up in the K&F Baxter Family Foundation, which he and his wife, Kathrine, created in 1997 with an endowment of $2 million. Run by his daughter, Stacey Bell, this foundation, based in Berkeley, California, has given more than $2.5 million to support both charter schools and programs benefiting multiracial children.
Baxter’s support for charter schools is driven by both empathy and societal need, he says. In Los Angeles County, some 45,000 students dropped out during the 2003-2004 school year. Baxter is concerned for those who will be lost to street gangs; he’s also worried that ever-spiraling numbers of both drop-outs and children graduating without a usable education will create a shortage of capable workers. Both problems, he says, have serious economic consequences for our nation. “It’s the biggest crisis by far in our country, and it’s worth working on.”
His other great cause is multiracial children. As recently as five years ago, the challenges facing multiracial children were hardly talked about. It wasn’t until the 2000 U.S. Census, in fact, that that survey allowed people to identify themselves as having more than one racial origin. According to that census, approximately 6.8 million Americans claim a multiracial lineage.
Among the problems multiracial children face, some experts warn, are social misunderstanding and under representation in the civil square. Potentially as detrimental to these children are the medical conditions they may be predisposed to, which healthcare workers often overlook because they’re not paying close attention to the children’s racial profiles.
Matt Kelley understands the problems and opportunities that multiracial children face. His parents were of Korean and European heritage. In 1998, as a 19-year-old college student determined to provide resources for parents of multiracial children, he launched Mavin magazine. By 2000 he had started the Mavin Foundation, a clearinghouse for information. Unfortunately, he had a difficult time securing funding. Kelley was sleeping on a couch and bussing tables to pay his bills. When the K&F Baxter Family Foundation recognized Mavin’s good work and gave it $20,000—the nonprofit’s first five-figure grant—it was a tremendous boost.
Mavin used the $20,000 grant, plus an additional $60,000 from the foundation, to create its “Multiracial Child Resource Book,” which is now used by families across the country. Kelley also used the grant as leverage to obtain donations from other foundations. Mavin has since grown to accommodate a staff of seven with annual revenues of about $700,000, Kelley says.
The K&F Baxter Foundation is governed by a three-person board that makes all decisions on grants. Bell’s research and recommendations are a crucial component in the board’s decision-making. The board includes Frank Baxter and is politically diverse, which leads to some lively discussions. “It’s great to have spirited conversations about what to do,” Baxter said. “We may be diverse, but we have the same aim: to make lives better for as many kids as we can.”
The Philanthropy Roundtable’s publications were important in helping Bell set up the foundation. According to her, no one involved in the K&F Baxter Family Foundation had any previous experience running foundations; so they looked to Roundtable publications for direction. She now loans these materials to others. The Roundtable’s conferences have also provided connections and ideas that have helped the foundation succeed, she says.
Baxter plans to leave most of his wealth to the foundation when he dies, but he’s “agonizing” over whether or not the foundation should sunset. If he leans toward sunsetting, it’s because, Baxter says, too many other foundations have not honored their donors’ original intent.
Baxter will continue to iron this out—after all, he’s retired, but he’s not relaxing. “Somewhere along the line I discovered that happiness is an inside job,” he says, “and the only way to find it is through service.”
Marshall Allen is a freelance writer in Pasadena, California.