Improving livelihoods and the environment that supports us all

Our Story

Sall Family Foundation supports transformative change at the nexus between the environment, public health, and community resiliency.

We believe that the people in communities are best placed to make the decisions that affect their everyday lives, enabling them to generate locally governed and sustainable solutions for the long-term – benefiting both people and nature.

SFF’s vision is turned into reality by a simple approach – backing leaders and organizations closest to the big challenges to the environment, public health, and poverty, empowering them to experiment, learn, and evolve as the planet around them changes. This is achieved through funding of both locally-led civil society organizations and larger non-profit agencies, with whom we encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration. This ensures community-driven approaches can leverage collective wisdom, scientific evidence, and scale efficiencies.

Our work is driven by curiosity, learning and experimentation. We embrace the complexity and long-term nature of problems, knowing that simplification of situations rarely leads to sustainable solutions that break the mold.

 

BeadWorks, a community enterprise supported by Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya, links local skills and global markets, enabling women to earn money and expand their social influence.

 

We explore areas where success isn’t guaranteed, and we’re not afraid to make mistakes, because the true successes of the past three decades have often been born out of the times when things haven’t always gone to plan. Our philanthropy provides a safety net which gives organizations and communities the confidence and means to make progress on complicated problems, and find the solutions which would otherwise be out of reach.

We recognize that the health of the environment is directly linked to the health and economic wellbeing of us all, that good health and healthcare is essential to improving all outcomes in a person’s life and that in order to help communities control their own fate they need support to sustainably improve their incomes, security, nutrition and surrounding environments.

Our investments span the geographies of Latin America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Asia Pacific and the Arctic. While some of what we have learned has been applied in different contexts, some of the complexity of the problems addressed is unique to the setting.

Every place is different and so we have collaborated closely for decades with trusted partners with deep expertise in regions across the world. We value honest dialogue with these partners, which we believe breeds deep trust, a culture of continuous improvement and an empowering flexibility that allows our ecosystem, and the communities we touch, to constantly experiment, evolve and reassess the road to the greatest impact.

And the common thread running throughout? Our founders, John and Ginger Sall, whose long-held plans to pledge the majority of their wealth to philanthropy, are driven by their compassion for this planet and the people and animals which live on it. These values led them to establish the Sall Family Foundation nearly 30 years ago. Their philanthropy is guided by humility, curiosity, science and they are on a continuous journey of learning and improvement. They have learned through deep listening to the lived experiences of local experts as well as world-renowned scientists that given the right information, communities with the agency to self-govern will create sustainable long-term benefits for people and nature. It is their belief that philanthropy should be measured by attention to any mistakes made and lessons learned along the way, and the impact felt by the world’s most vulnerable.

Global Investments

Focus Areas

An interconnected approach

We recognize that the health of the environment is directly linked to the health and economic wellbeing of us all, that good health and healthcare is essential to improving all outcomes in a person’s life and that in order to help communities control their own fate they need support to sustainably improve their incomes, security, nutrition and surrounding environments. That’s why SFF directs its resources to community-driven activity in the areas of environment, global public health and poverty reduction, underpinned by science and freedom of experimentation.

Environment

Natural resource management is a powerful tool when people have the support and resources to put their own vision into practice. To illustrate one example in making environment and community resiliency vision a reality, since 2008, SFF encouraged CARE and WWF to form an Alliance to put the livelihoods of artisanal fishers and farmers at the center of efforts to protect their natural resources on the Primeiras e Segundas archipelago, Mozambique’s first Environmental Protection area – a concept which has since expanded to in Tanzania, Madagascar, and Nepal. This shared effort addressed environmental degradation and poverty, ensuring benefits for both people and nature including by developing farmer field schools, which teach and encourage experimentation with more productive and sustainable farming practices, and help communities improve soil fertility and water filtration, making their crops better adapted to climate change. These practices improved crop yields, food and nutrition security, and empowered women, who traditionally manage tasks such as fetching household water.

And more recently, since 2018, an investment with The Nature Conservancy has involved partnering with the government of Angola and the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission, World Wildlife Fund and others to ensure protection of environment and livelihoods in the Cubango-Okavango River Basin as the area develops its infrastructure. This has involved a three-pronged approach. Firstly, we supported work with the local government to plan for smart development prioritizing low-impact renewable energy sources, like solar power, over traditional large-scale hydropower. Secondly, with a local civil society organization, communities will manage their resources and derive a livelihood from them through workshops and pilot projects in forestry and fisheries. Thirdly, the co-development of a long-term financing plan designed to fit the complex politics and geography of the basin. This work is the first step of a decades-long project to ensure the sustainability of the Okavango basin for all.

Global Public Health

As an illustration of our support for global public health, SFF has funded what is currently known as CARE’s “Collective Impact for Nutrition” programming for the past 17 years in Bangladesh, Benin, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Nicaragua, Peru, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. In Bangladesh, the program started as a breastfeeding in emergencies program, where local teams and civil social organizations developed and refined training and communication materials to find the most effective ways to promote behavior change among community and clinic-based health staff who were already overloaded meeting critical needs in an emergency context. Guided by SFF’s spirit of experimentation and continuous improvement, the program learned from what went well, and what didn’t, and after four years conducted rigorous research into project impacts. Having found the project was delivering big improvements in behaviors like increased breastfeeding but with no reductions in stunting, the team completed further assessment and analysis. With a commitment to deeply listening to program participants and repurposing for more impact, the programming became multisectoral, spanning WaSH and agriculture, and has scaled delivery through national governments. In 2018, the project signed an agreement to support the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council to roll out a nationwide multi-sector approach to nutrition based on the developed model. With this partnership, 160 million people are being reached and living healthier lives.

Poverty Reduction

In the area of poverty reduction, we invest in organizations that are helping people to navigate crises, sustain economic security and ultimately regain control of their own futures. For example, CARE consulted more than 125 specialists from 45 countries, to understand if and how Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) could help communities impacted by a crisis to respond and recover. They found that working within community organizations and combining VSLAs with cash transfers can empower refugees and displaced people by allowing them to: access savings without having national ID and proof of residence; increase the influence of women in responding to emergencies, helping ensure their specific needs are prioritized; foster collective action, solidarity and community engagement; and place decision making control directly in the hands of affected communities. There is a growing demand from within communities to form VSLAs and combine them with cash transfer programs. These findings form the basis of a series of pilots in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Jordan and Yemen that will have a direct impact while helping to refine programming in this area.

WWF and the Puerto Rastrojo Foundation partner with the Indigenous La Chorrera people in the heart of the Colombian Amazon, joining traditional knowledge and conservation science to analyze the forests’ ecosystem services from an indigenous viewpoint, and strengthen governance of their forest territories.

Organizations We’ve Supported and Learned From

Over the last few decades, we have learned alongside a range of value-creating organizations of all sizes, including particularly close collaborations with:

CARE

More than two decades helping ensure people live in dignity and security, particularly women and girls. Because equality is vital to tackling poverty.

The Nature Conservancy

Nearly three decades using science and innovation to shape ambitious programming where nature and people flourish together.

World Wildlife Fund

Nearly two decades supporting WWF’s approach to community centered design approaches, investing in high-risk projects, learning through implementation and repurposing grants to have the biggest impact.

Team

John P. Sall

Co-founder
President
Board Member (1992)

Virginia B. Sall

Co-founder
Secretary, Treasurer
Board Member (1992)

Jennifer J. Davis

Board Member (2017)

Andrea D. Fuentes

Board Member  (2014)

Jason W. Haggins

Executive Director (2018)
Board Member (2013)

Sophie Hartshorn

Board Member (2013)

Decker T. Ngongang

Managing Director (2020)

Elizabeth A. Sall

Board Member (1998)

English G. Sall

Board Member (2012)

Leslie C. Sall

Board Member (2005)

William W. Sall

Board Member (2009)

Mary Tschirhart

Board Member (2012)