Founders David and Lura Lovell established their family foundation to support causes they cared about on a deep personal level.
Four priorities of the Lovell Foundation are mental health, integrative medicine, cultural/spiritual enrichment and philanthropic education. “All that grows out of our personal experience,” Lura said.
David and Lura were not born to financial wealth. They fell in love in college and married soon after graduation. “We didn’t have any money,” Lura remembered. Their eventual wealth came from David’s diligence as a chemical engineer and plant supervisor, first working for others, then piloting his own companies – Coulton Chemical Corp. and Cairo Chemical Corp. – for a quarter of a century.
David frequently said, “The only security you ever have is what you have inside yourself in skill and in character.” Lura recalled, “It was just hard, hard work and a lot of responsibility – with not very much money” at the start.
By the time they were planning to sell the company – “for more than we ever thought we would ever have” – the Lovells wanted to “do some good” with their wealth. They decided to establish a family foundation and “just run it ourselves. We’re young and smart. We can do that,” Lura recalled.
Then David died.
Lura was left to decide how and what to fund.
Nurture Mind, Body, Spirit
Mental health was the obvious first choice – based on the decades of work she’d done on behalf of their son Rob and others. “I knew about mental health firsthand.” Priorities were “based on the challenges that we had had in our own family, that I was passionate about, that I knew about,” she said.
“I still think it is really good advice for anybody that wants to become a philanthropist. Just get into an area which you’re passionate about and you know something about. You are a better grantor if you do that. It would be hard to have a passion for something you don’t know anything about.”
She established a board of advisors. “I picked people I knew, liked, admired and trusted – and who had a sense of humor. That’s very important. I picked smart people I’d known long enough to know how responsible and dependable they are – and generous with their time and resources. And we’re still together. There’s been a loyalty among all of us – to each other and to the mission of the foundation,” Lura said in an interview recorded in 2010.
Lura quickly identified integrative medicine and cultural/spiritual enrichment as other key priorities. “For me, those areas of our mission go together – like mind, body, spirit.”
Both Lura and David experienced the benefits of integrative medicine. After David was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer, an oncology nurse taught him guided imagery and meditation, which helped him spend his last few weeks peacefully connecting with the people he loved. Lura and daughter Ann also learned to manage their severe inflammatory arthritis by incorporating integrative therapies into their lifestyle.
Honesty, integrity, generosity and compassion are the defining Lovell values. The couple shared a love of life and a passion for education, the arts and their religion. They believed that feeding the soul was essential.
Supports Philanthropic Excellence
The Lovells were passionate about encouraging more people to participate in philanthropy – by volunteering their time, ideas, energies and financial support to address important issues in the community. They also understood the importance of engaging and training the next generation of philanthropists.
These visionaries recognized that philanthropists and organizations working together would have a greater impact on shaping the future. The foundation has led both local and national collaborations to address complex social issues – bringing funders and thought leaders together to share information, identify critical needs, agree on action steps and provide leadership and financial support to implement a solution.
The Lovell family also recognized how essential it is to support nonprofits so they can evolve and expand their capacity to better serve their communities.
That’s philanthropic leadership – now a hallmark of the Lovell Foundation.
Build Relationships First
“At the first board meeting we had our first guest – a young man from the Iowa State department of engineering” who came to talk about establishing an endowment in David’s name “to help young people go to college and get their engineering degrees.”
Through connecting with that young man “we had the budding idea that we wanted to have relationships with the people we give money to. We want them to know us – and we want to know them.”
From then on Lura cultivated relationships first – before recommending any funding. “You do have to keep looking and seeking. As the foundation grows we may need more than just the executive director and the chairman to decide who gets invited to present a proposal.”
“I would hope that the board members – and the family in particular – would more actively seek out things in their communities. We need to encourage that.”
Looking back, Lura identified three pivotal projects that helped determine how and what they would fund. One was the Family to Family Program of the National Alliance of Mental Illness that educates families about mental illness. “The ripple effect from that is immeasurable. That has been very successful” – and funded for 17 years. “We can decide up front that this is going to be something we’ll probably continually fund each year because there’s no other source of funding for that particular program.”
The Lovell Foundation also was instrumental in establishing and funding the Bravewell Collaborative – a pioneering national partnership of philanthropists committed to advancing integrative medicine – patient-centered care that focuses on health and wellness by treating the whole person. In 2013 the foundation awarded a final grant for two legacy projects – an example of ending funding once the goal is achieved.
The Corpus Christi Church in Toledo was the first – and only – capital project the foundation funded. “It became a really big passion in my life,” Lura said. But after that, the foundation focused on people and programs, not buildings.
Keep Mission Focused, Yet Flexible
“A mission needs to be flexible – because things change and opportunities present themselves. Your eyes are opened to other needs.”
One example: “I do think that helping children have art experiences and music experiences and theater experiences feeds the soul. I think it’s vitally important. To me, it makes perfect sense.”
“In the future, I would love to see enough education about the things going on with mental illness that we don’t have to fund that anymore. The same with integrative medicine – someday we could see it as just good medicine. Maybe I’m overly optimistic.”
“I think our missions are clear enough that growth and expansion can come in the same areas. It just evolves. That would be fine.”
Lura was the driving force of the foundation for most of the 20 years since its founding, until her death in September 2013.