Susan Cornell Wilkes is founder and president of Adventures in Giving LLC. Her company provides management and consulting services to family foundations, advises on effective international grant making and leads family and group trips to the developing world to meet potential partners and visit grant sites.
Susan’s career encompasses multiple aspects of the foundation world, providing her with a broad range of experience and expertise that offers her clients well-run philanthropy programs in which every dollar counts and donors are fulfilled. As founder or leader of several nonprofits, she respects the complexity of nonprofit work and understands the issues faced in delivering services in a changing world. In business, she has learned disciplines that support successful foundations and nonprofits in their work. She herself is a family member Trustee of the Peter C. Cornell Trust, established in 1949 in Buffalo, New York by her great uncle, father of the famous American actress, Katharine Cornell..
A native of Washington, D.C. and educated at Harvard, Susan launched her career in the independent sector as a co-founder of internationally acclaimed Up With People Inc. She has since founded or co-founded ten innovative local and national organizations or programs in San Francisco, Washington D. C., New York, Minnesota and Arkansas, where she collaborated with former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Innovative and skilled in mobilizing ideas, resources and diverse groups, she has developed and managed eleven successful nonprofit joint ventures and collaborations, some of which became national models.
Susan has twice established and run her own businesses. She has worked extensively on the development of microcredit programs overseas. She and her husband Jim Klobuchar, well-known Minnesota columnist, author, mountain climber and adventure travel leader, published “The Miracles of Barefoot Capitalism”, the story of microcredit organizations, clients and programs that they interviewed on three continents.
Before moving to Minnesota Susan spent two years working with members of the Rockefeller family in an innovative effort to stimulate the creation of venture capital funds for profitable investment in entrepreneurship and sustainable economic development with positive social impact in Africa and Latin America. Collaborators in that endeavor included, among others, Chase Bank, Bankers Trust Foundation, Charles Stuart Mott Foundation, Mac Arthur Foundation, the InterAmerican Development Bank, Asia Foundation, Banamex in Mexico, Fondacion Esquel Ecuador, Zimbabwe Progress Fund, Anthuri Fund in South Africa and high net worth families and individuals.
Prior to establishing her own company in Minnesota, Susan was managing director of philanthropy for an integrated financial services firm for families of wealth, where she served as executive director of several family foundations. She has also collaborated with community foundations in San Francisco, Buffalo, Little Rock and Minneapolis.
Susan has worked in a broad range of philanthropic, international development, education, exchange and business activities in 30 countries. Her leadership roles have placed her at the lectern at home and abroad. She is a gifted public speaker, writer, teacher, facilitator and trainer. At Adventures in Giving she is particularly committed to strategic and leveraged international grant making to programs and organizations that involve systems change, sustainable solutions and advocacy.