Ecosystems Thinker: A Profile of Rose Letwin and Wilburforce Foundation

Ecosystems Thinker

A Profile of Rose Letwin and Wilburforce Foundation

A Massive Muse

When it comes to naming their foundations, even the most innovative donors tend to table their creativity. In this and many other ways, Wilburforce Foundation, one of the country’s most admired conservation funders, is a rare bird.

Most people assume the foundation is named for William Wilberforce, the 18th century British abolitionist and philanthropist. The truth is more interesting—and humorous. It’s named for a 300-pound “miniature” pig, the late house pet of founder Rose Letwin.

“When I came in for my interview with Rose, she pointed to a picture of a large pig in a small frame,” shared Wilburforce Executive Director Paul Beaudet, who previously served as the associate director of the Pride Foundation and brought strong expertise in program evaluation. “She said, ‘That’s our founder.'” The pig was female, but Letwin gave her the name Wilbur anyway, to honor the beloved pig from Charlotte’s Web. “I was kind of making fun of people who name their foundations after themselves,” the 60-something Letwin explained.

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Wilburforce Foundation

Mission: Wilburforce Foundation empowers conservation leaders to protect the irreplaceable lands, waters, and wildlife of western North America.

Location: Seattle, WA
Year Established: 1991
Staff: 10
2019 Grants: $14.9M
Average Grant Size: $99,000

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