Current member John Clausen, President/Director of the Hygeia Foundation
Compiled by Katie Clayton
When did you start the Hygeia Foundation?
In 1977 my friend Clark Easter and I were doing a lot of educating and research involving holistic health. Since the work was charitable we decided to start a tax-exempt public foundation, which meant that we could accept donations from individuals and other organizations that wanted to support our work as well as providing a corporate identity for our values. During the 1980s a similarly aligned organization (The One Earth Foundation), which was focused on channeling funds from US donors to the Findhorn Community in Scotland, wanted to close their doors and we were asked to take on this function. This was the beginning of Hygeia’s work serving as a fiscal sponsor* and a grant-making organization. Since then we have adopted numerous projects in the US and abroad that are aligned with our mission and programs, as well as developing our own projects.
*Fiscal sponsorship is a formal arrangement in which a 501(c)3 public charity sponsors a project that may lack exempt status; this arrangement allows an organization or project that is doing charitable work to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations under their sponsor’s exempt status. Hygeia is the fiscal sponsor of the Hudson Valley Current.
What makes your organization unique from others?
We tend to take on smaller cutting-edge projects which usually don’t attract funding from large, mainstream foundations and we develop a personal relationship with our grantees. Hygeia is run by volunteers so our overheads are low and we can offer our services at a very reasonable cost with minimal bureaucratic process. Our donations come from individuals, private foundations, and donor-advised funds.
How would you like to see your business grow?
We are continually striving to better understand the evolution of culture and consciousness in order to help Hygeia make effective strategic decisions to support the transition to a thriving sustainable planetary future. It’s exciting!
While Hygeia is based out of Connecticut you work with a handful of organizations located in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Why do you think it’s important to work and support neighboring areas?
We’ve supported projects in around 20 countries that improve people’s lives and the environment; the emphasis is on local and “wholistic” approaches. We are attracted to projects in the Hudson Valley because we see the area being at the leading edge in developing sustainable community and a coherent local economy. Many people are realizing that the way we are treating the planet is just not sustainable. We are all connected; if we hurt someone else and/or the environment, we are ultimately hurting ourselves.
When I was younger I was an athlete but had health problems. After trying to correct it with modern medicine I realized I was only suppressing my symptoms and not addressing the cause. After a lot of research and learning how to follow my intuition, I regained my health by eating organically and growing my own food. I directly experienced how healthy soil is one of the most important aspects of life on this planet that’s essential to both personal and planetary health. I feel great gratitude for the soil that nurtures me and is a source of my well-being. That’s why I’m passionate about creating and sustaining healthy soil, why sustainable/regenerative agriculture became so important to me, and why Hygeia aligns itself with organizations holding similar values, such as the Hawthorne Valley Association, the Local Economies Project, and the Hudson Valley Current in the Hudson Valley.
Can you tell me a bit about Hygeia’s projects?
Hygeia currently supports around 20 projects that fall into five program areas. For example, The Big Picture Program is a deep exploration of evolutionary dynamics and The Ecovillage and Resilient Sustainable Communities Program develops and supports projects and initiatives that are experimenting with, modeling, or prototyping healthy ways of living in a “planetary era.” The emphasis is on local and holistic approaches. The Hudson Valley Current falls under this initiative.
How have you used Currents?
Hygeia has accepted donations of Currents to support the local currency project and the Current’s Satisfy Hunger campaign. We take a 2.5% transaction fee in Currents as a fiscal sponsor. Then we’ve used our Currents at Lifebridge Sanctuary and the Big Cheese in Rosendale. We may also use Currents in the future at a bed & breakfast. We believe we are pioneering the use of local currency to support philanthropic efforts.
If you would like to learn more about the Hygeia Foundation you can visit their website at hyfo.org.