Donor Spotlight: Frey Foundation

We recently sat down with Cam Frey, Frey Foundation Trustee, to understand the motives of the Foundation and why he personally supports the goals and efforts of GWS.

GWS: Tell us about the Frey Foundation, what should people know?

Cam: We are a family foundation with eight trustees and two next generation members.  The foundation was created in 1974 by my grandparents, Edward and Frances Frey.  They had a passion for community and a commitment to philanthropy.  For three generations the Frey Family has continued their work.  We are committed to preserving our grandparents’ interests, passions, and legacy.  As well as make our own impact on the communities we grew up in.

As a group we invest collaboratively in western and northern Michigan to create a better place to live by strengthening its communities, protecting its natural environment, enhancing the arts, and transforming the lives of individuals and families.  One great thing about the foundation is the many different insights, passions, and life experiences of each trustee.  We currently live all over the country and the ages of trustees range from mid-30’s to mid-70’s.  That said, we are all tied together by everyone making a conscious decision to make an impact in Michigan, regardless of where we live now.  I would say we are an evolving foundation that is always open to new ideas and strategies around our focus areas.

GWS: Why does the Frey Foundation, and you personally, support GWS? What motivates you to donate?

Cam:  We have an environmental focus.  To give you more background, we actually have four areas of focus: the environment, community arts, children and family, and building community.  In a way we have a fifth area of focus too – Board driven initiatives.  We call these initiatives FAPS, which stands for Foundation Administered Programs.  Going back to the environment, we have three strategic priorities:  preserving and restoring watersheds, lakes, and streams, in Lake Michigan’s twelve sub-watersheds, 2) expanding and connecting regional trails and greenways, and 3) protecting critical lands, including farmland, park land, and natural habitats.  While the board and organization as a whole stay within the focus areas I previously mentioned, the trustees have the ability to make discretionary donations outside of the these areas. GWS clearly fits within our environmental focus area, but not necessarily within our geographic focus, so I took the opportunity to use discretionary funds.  What’s great about GWS is that our donation hits on other focus areas as well.  It supports children and family and building community.  It’s great when our investments support more than one focus area.

As for what motives me to donate?  Really for me it’s about water.  Water is the life blood of an ecosystem.  Whether is wastewater, watersheds, water management, etc., it’s a great area to focus on.  Many of my discretionary donations have been to animal related groups and causes.  In many cases these animals and their habitat depend on the environment and a large part of that is related to water.  In addition, my role as an architect often involves waste water and water management.  Water systems in the environment are a big part of my job.  Also, I live in Colorado and water is a huge issue in this region.

GWS:  One of the foundation’s focus areas is the environment.  Talk about why you focus on the environment and why you think it’s important?

Cam:  A few years ago we fine tuned our areas of focus.  For the environment we wanted to make an impact on the Great Lakes.  So we have a focus on watersheds.  We do a lot of watershed projects with the understanding they all feed the Great Lakes’ ecosystem while being a hyper-local resource as well.  Our grandparents had a passion for the environment and we all grew up exploring the dunes, forest, and lakes of western and northern Michigan.  We want everyone to be able to enjoy the same wonders we did as kids.  And as a family that continues today, from our northern Michigan fishing trips to a family farm.  Our family is passionate about the environment.

GWS: Tell us about a few contributions, achievements and accomplishments you and the foundation are most proud of?

Cam: Environmentally speaking, we’ve supported a lot of different trails and parkways connecting western Michigan to different parts of northern Michigan.  We’ve worked with counties and community foundations to bridge the gaps between existing trails.  We have also been a committed supporter of dam removal in parts of the Michigan that help restore these ecosystems to their natural state.  This can have a profound effect on the surrounding ecologies and communities.

GWS: You mentioned that previous donations have gone to animal related groups.  Tell us a little more about that and what other organizations you personally support?

Cam:  Growing up as a kid, I have many great memories of fly fishing and playing in the rivers and lakes nearby.  As a group we have a lot of memories in Northern Michigan enjoying the environment.  That is one reason the foundation has an environmental focus area.  In the past I’ve supported everything from lemurs to lions to sea turtles along with related organizations such as Trout Unlimited and

GWS:  Cam, it was great to talk to you and learn more about your passions and the foundation.  From all of GWS, we want to say thank you for your and the foundation’s support.  Your donation was unexpected and we greatly appreciate your investment!

Cam:  I am really lucky to be able to do this.  I believe in what GWS is doing.  It’s a worthwhile area for people.  All of your members are volunteers.  People are donating their time and energy and that’s amazing.  We work with a lot of large groups, but we believe in supporting small groups, volunteer organizations.  It’s a great way to make an impact.

For more information about the Frey Foundation and what they do, visit

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