Frank Merrick, founder and president of Foundation Management Inc., breaks down the mission of his company to three words: brokering good deeds.
He and his staff of nine serve as a back office to foundations, including 12 private family foundations and the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma, which holds $225 million in assets for more than 850 philanthropic funds statewide — from the Ada Library Friends Fund and Duncan Regional Hospital Health Foundation Funds to the Shawnee Family YMCA Fund and the Waynoka Historical Society Fund.
“We don't manage the money for the foundations, or decide who gets the grants,” Merrick said. “But we've designed an efficient model for both the giver and the asker.”
FMI handles everything from planning meetings and retreats for foundations to keeping their books and customizing and processing grant applications.
From his offices at 2932 NW 122, Merrick, 57, sat down with The Oklahoman on Monday to talk about how he, 13 years ago, created what he calls his dream job. This is an edited transcript:
Q: The Merrick Family Foundation is one of a dozen private trusts your company helps manage. Has philanthropy always been a part of your life?
A: It has. My grandfather, Ward S. Merrick, and his stepmother established the trust in 1948 after the death of my great-grandfather — Frank Merrick for whom I was named. My grandfather and his father moved from Chicago to Oklahoma to drill oil wells. I only learned a year ago, from historian Bob Blackburn, that my grandparents owned Fort Washita in the Durant/Ada area and gave it to the state of Oklahoma in '69. But I remember digging up the remains of a soldier there when I was about 8. I also remember the newspaper headlines when my grandparents created the first chair at the University of Oklahoma when I was in junior high. My grandfather was one of the founders of the OU Foundation.
Q: Tell us about your childhood.
A: I grew up on a cattle ranch in the Ardmore area — with a brother and sister, four and two years older, and another brother, two years younger. My first job was in the fifth grade, throwing The Daily Ardmoreite on afternoons and Sunday mornings. In high school, I worked for a retail clothing store and saved enough money to buy my first car, a '73 four-door Thunderbird, the day I graduated high school. My father, who earned a geology degree from OU, refused to buy us kids cars until we successfully passed two years of college. He was diagnosed with M.S. when I was 16, but we didn't lose him until I was in my late 40s. He fought going into a wheelchair and, instead, continued to walk kind of like a drunk guy, before his last year of life when he used a scooter. My mother — Marianne Brown Bachman — remarried and lives in Edmond.
Q: And college? Did you successfully pass two years?