Bringing Candor, Trust, Innovation, Empathy, and Fun to the Table: A Member Spotlight on the Flinn Foundation

Founded over 50 years ago, the Flinn Foundation is an Arizona nonprofit keenly focused on the development of the biosciences ecosystem in the state of Arizona. The Flinn Foundation was founded by Dr. Robert Flinn, one of Arizona’s most prominent cardiologists, and his wife, Irene, who at one time was the single largest shareholder of IBM stock. This not-so-small fortune of Irene’s was used to create the Flinn Foundation in 1965 as a privately endowed, philanthropic grantmaking organization.

Initially, the Foundation was mainly concerned with improving the quality of health care in Arizona, but as years went by, the Foundation continued to expand to create greater impact. The foundation’s beginnings paved the way to execute on their mission of “Improving the quality of life in Arizona to benefit future generations.”

Today, the Foundation focuses on four pillars: Biosciences, Flinn Scholars, Arts and Culture, and Civic Leadership. These pillars enable the Foundation to impact across significant sectors in the state. Through its prestigious Flinn Scholarship program, the Foundation also aids in developing Arizona’s emerging young minds to be leaders in their chosen fields.

In 2001, the Foundation board conducted an extensive review of their current initiatives and analyzed economic data to pinpoint a specific area where the Foundation could make a substantial impact. Upon identifying the biosciences as that area, a strategic plan was created to help Arizona become a leader in select areas of this space, domestically and globally, by 2025. In a serendipitous sequence of events, a carve-out from the Foundation’s endowment became available for investment in Arizona bioscience companies, which ultimately led the Foundation to a relationship with the Desert Angels.

Through their membership, the Foundation has enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the Desert Angels. As an invitee to monthly member meetings, the Foundation is able to maintain up-to-date knowledge on the biosciences landscape, since a large quantity of companies invited to member meetings are in the bioscience field. The Foundation feels that its membership in the Desert Angels is enriching, both personally and professionally. Some of the Foundation staff’s favorite aspects of membership include always having a good laugh with fellow members at monthly meetings and being able to consistently absorb knowledge from the Desert Angels, who are experts in their respective fields.

The guiding values of the Flinn Foundation are candor, trust, innovation, empathy, and fun, which, according to CEO Tammy McLeod, are values that significantly reflect who the Flinns were as people. While the Flinn Foundation has shifted its priorities over the years, it’s safe to say that the Flinns would be proud of what the organization has accomplished to date, with much more on the horizon for the Foundation in the coming years.

This article published for the Desert Angels Member Spotlight, a collection of stories that showcase our members and the impact they have in our community. If you are interested in learning more about this member or being featured in a future story, please contact Article written by Oliver Shackley with contributions by Erika Mitnik. Published March 2021.