Person

Jaimie Mayer

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Philanthropist and Foundation Chair

Jaimie Mayer is the heiress to the Sara Lee estate and chair of the left-of-center Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF), which was funded by the estate of her great-grandfather. [1]

Since Mayer took over the NCF, it adopted a goal of “radical transformation of our society and economy.” The Foundation asserts that capitalism’s roots include “white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and patriarchy,” and seeks to invest “in strategies and solutions that seek to dismantle oppressive systems and promote just, fair, and sustainable outcomes.” [2]

Inside Philanthropy named Mayer as a “Steward” in its article, “The Most Powerful Heirs in Philanthropy,” which commented, “the way these heirs exercise power—choosing which nonprofits thrive and shaping policy arenas—feels at odd with the ideals of democracy.” [3]

Background

Since 2019, Jaimie Mayer is chair of the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She is the fourth-generation heiress of the estate left by her great-grandfather Nathan Cummings, founder of Sara Lee Corporation. [4]

Before becoming chair of NCF, Mayer served on its board for more than twenty years while working in film and theatre. She was the director of the musical “COAL,” created to “catalyze and spark individuals and communities to find their voice in the climate change movement.” Mayer received and MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business and an MFA in theatre management and producing from Columbia University’s School of The Arts. [5]

Nathan Cummings Foundation

Mayer claims that the Nathan Cummings Foundation is on “the right path with the work that we have done in addressing incarceration in this country, racial inequity, implicit bias and systemic racism.” She explained that “we’re much more interested in systems change,” than addressing immediate needs. [6]

Soon after taking the helm at NCF, Mayer wrote a letter to Peer Funders that presented the foundation’s new goal to “address power to achieve real impact.” She described NCF’s new investment strategy as “impact investing” towards “racial and economic justice.” Mayer explained that “Impact investing is about how we participate—how we show up and change these systems from within.” She further stated that NCF’s investment strategy would replicate its grantmaking strategy “by removing investments that held positions in companies that were causing harm to people or the planet,” and shifting those funds into companies “that meet the even-higher bar of helping to solve systemic challenges.” [7]

On becoming chair of NCF, Mayer increased discretionary grants, which she claimed allowed the foundation to “be more responsive to growing threats like white nationalism.” [8]

In a New York Times interview, Mayer described the investing paradigm shift: “Why would we want to be killing the whales with our investments while trying to save them with our grant making?” However, she lamented that the shift had taken longer than expected and that “It looks from the outside that the optics are not good. We’ve tried to be intentional, but it’s been tough.” [9]

Under Mayer’s leadership, NCF committed itself to what it calls “Justice + Equity,” because of an alleged American “history of racialized violence and anti-blackness that has resulted in the destruction and continued social and economic exclusion of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people and communities.” NCF states that capitalism’s roots include “white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and patriarchy,” and that the foundation seeks to invest “in strategies and solutions that seek to dismantle oppressive systems and promote just, fair, and sustainable outcomes” as well as “radical transformation of our society and economy.” [10]

In 2022, Inside Philanthropy named Mayer a “steward,” an heir “who act[s] as engaged practitioners carrying out multi-generation family philanthropy that follows historical form and function.” The article claimed that Mayer inherited a philanthropic tradition and philosophy of “focusing on trending issues.” It also noted that “the way these heirs exercise power—choosing which nonprofits thrive and shaping policy arenas—feels at odd with the ideals of democracy,” questioning whether it is “ok that a small elite has so much wealth and power.” [11]

References

  1. “CFC.” Campden Family Connect. May 21, 2020. https://www.campdenfamilyconnect.com/webinar_global_2020_18.php ^
  2. “Our Values.” Nathan Cummings Foundation. February 18, 2021. https://nathancummings.org/our-values/ ^
  3. Callahan, David. “The Most Powerful Heirs in Philanthropy.” Inside Philanthropy. January 31, 2022. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/1/19/the-most-powerful-heirs-in-philanthropy ^
  4. “CFC.” Campden Family Connect. May 21, 2020. https://www.campdenfamilyconnect.com/webinar_global_2020_18.php ^
  5. “Jaimie Mayer.” National Center for Family Philanthropy. January 6, 2022. https://www.ncfp.org/people/jaimie-mayer/ ^
  6.  “In Pursuit of Philanthropy.” Reserved Exclusives: Insights & Inspiration. December 2020. https://msreserved.com/article/in_pursuit_of_philanthropy_and_family_leadership ^
  7. “Values Proposition.” NCF, August 13, 2021. https://impact.nathancummings.org/values-proposition/ ^
  8. Freund, John. “Millennial Rising: A Prominent Family Foundation Has Its First Fourth-Generation Board Chair.” Inside Philanthropy. November 7, 2021. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2019/6/26/millennial-rising-a-prominent-family-foundation-has-its-first-fourth-generation-board-chair ^
  9. Sullivan, Paul. “A Family Opens up about Its Investing Mistakes.” New York Times. April 16, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/16/your-money/family-foundation-investments.html ^
  10. “Our Values.” The Nathan Cummings Foundation. February 18, 2021. https://nathancummings.org/our-values/ ^
  11. Callahan, David. “The Most Powerful Heirs in Philanthropy.” Inside Philanthropy. January 31, 2022. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2022/1/19/the-most-powerful-heirs-in-philanthropy ^
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