This month’s “Member Spotlight” features Joseph Maroon, Executive Director at Virginia Environmental Endowment (VEE). Here’s a little about Joseph and his work in philanthropy:
Describe your philanthropic philosophy and how your philosophy shapes your work.
I have been honored to serve in many leadership roles including with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, JLARC, and now at VEE. I have also taught environmental policy classes at UVA, Virginia Tech, and VCU. I believe strongly in public service and servant leadership, empowering those with whom I have the privilege of working. At VEE, I have sought to strengthen and support the many wonderful nonprofits working in conservation in Virginia. Having served in both government and the nonprofit world has been beneficial in understanding the needs of our organizational partners. Finding innovative and collaboartive ways of addressing problems is appealing. So too, is supporting tried and true methods of getting things accomplished and filling gaps.
How have changes over the past few years influenced your leadership and/or grantmaking?
As with many others, the past few years have brought a much greater awareness on the need for increasing support of proposals that positively impact traditionally under-served areas, low income and socially vulnerable communities; engage people of color; and/or improve the environmental quality of life for these communities and individuals.
The Virginia Environmental Endowment (VEE) is an independent grant-making foundation based in Richmond that is focused on improving the quality of the environment by using its capital, expertise and resources to work with its grantees and partners to improve water quality, restore Chesapeake Bay, prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, promote environmental literacy and public awareness, and address climate resilience.
Tell us about a project or an area of work you’re most excited about.
VEE has supported the creation of the James River Buffer Program in the Middle and Upper James. Since its launch in 2019, over 900 acres (over 322,000 native trees) have been installed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, James River Association, and Virginia Department of Forestry, across 238 sites. The Program helps landowners in the James River watershed install riparian buffers on their properties at no cost to the landowner. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss with potential funding partners how they might help to expand this much needed program.
As a new member, what are you looking forward to the most? What should other members know about you and/or your organization?
The Endowment had a unique beginning. On February 1, 1977, VEE opened its doors. Initial funding came from a settlement of a lawsuit against a chemical company for polluting the James River with the toxic insecticide Kepone, which contaminated the river and impaired the health of workers at the plant. With its establishment, VEE became the first grant-making foundation in the nation to devote its funding exclusively to environmental issues. We currently have three grant programs: The Virginia Program, James River Water Quality Improvement Program, and Community Conservation Program. We look forward to sharing with VFN members about the significant environmental concerns facing all parts of the Commonwealth and how they can make a difference.
What else would you like your fellow funders to know?
I attended a portion of the May 2023 conference and was honored to be a presenter in the Environmental Session. I very much look forward to learning more from our fellow funders on how they are creatively helping to meet the multitude of issues facing the Commonwealth. I hope we can also engage with more funders interested in protecting our water, land, and air resources.