By Joyce L. Carroll
Special to Delaware Business Times
Chris Grundner’s professional journey has mirrored that of a roller coaster ride. He was at the top of an ascent in the corporate marketplace at the century’s start. Grundner was among the youngest senior vice presidents for cobrand credit card business development at what is now JP Morgan Chase when he brokered one of the largest credit card deals in history by signing Disney. But his world flipped following his wife’s diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor in 2002. Grundner channeled his pain into a proactive response following her death.
“You can choose to move closer to God or further away. I moved closer,” he said, adding that that included moving from being served to serving.
Today, Grundner continues an upward trajectory. His placement in the nonprofit world has proved to be as successful as his previous corporate roles.
Most immediately, he created the Kelly Heinz-Grundner Brain Tumor Foundation; it eventually merged with the National Brain Tumor Society enabling two of Grundner’s awareness initiatives to go national as well.
He later reinvigorated the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement as president and CEO. His efforts there resulted in increased membership and the extension of the organization’s reach. Moreover, he was able to appreciate Delaware’s vast philanthropic landscape.
“I got to know the issues of larger organizations and the smaller ones,” he said.
But the full rewards of seeing philanthropy’s impact occurred upon joining the Welfare Foundation. By last July, he was making site visits to nonprofit applicants seeking funding. He now serves as President and CEO of the organization. Thanks to Grundner, the Welfare Foundation now has an interactive website. But nothing, he said, replaces actual face-time.
“It means putting some miles on the car and visiting potential applicants … and taking the time to better understand their challenges and needs through in-depth face-to-face dialogue,” he said.
Pierre S. du Pont founded the Welfare Foundation in 1930. In the past 30 years, it has awarded grants to more than 650 organizations totaling $130 million to recipients as varied as Delaware Wild Lands and the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative. As for Grundner’s part: “I’m honored. It’s a privilege to be in the role. The Welfare Foundation has been around long before me, and hopefully long after.”