Franci Neely says she’s always had a heart for giving back. After all, her motto is: “Make every day better for someone other than myself.” And that’s just what the retired attorney plans on doing. The Franci Neely Foundation creator spent more than 20 years in business litigation and says she’s now fulfilled spending her days giving back through her foundation and many nonprofits throughout her hometown of Houston.
The University of Texas at Austin School of Law honors graduate says she sees philanthropic work as practically a principled duty. She adds that her friends describe her as “passionate,” and she told principalpost.com she’s a huge fan of the work the Peace Corps and Doctors Without Borders are doing.
“I view it as almost a moral obligation when one has been fortunate, and I have been fortunate in terms of money,” Franci Neely says. “Money can't buy you love, but it can give you an ability to ideally improve things for others. So that's really the impetus: that it is important to me to do that in meaningful ways.”
Thanks to her lengthy list of philanthropic contributions, Franci Neely has been the recipient of many awards. In 2008, she was recognized as one of the Houston 50 Women of Influence, and The University of Texas Law School named Franci Neely its 2007 Distinguished Alumnus for Community Service. In 2001, she was named one of the 10 Women of Distinction in Houston by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America Inc. and ABC’s Channel 13.
Franci Neely Gives Back to Hermann Park
Franci Neely was recognized for a $250,000 donation she made to Houston’s Hermann Park to fund an interactive water-play feature for children in honor of her grandchildren Emma, Beau, and Ford Thompson.
“I was honored by the Hermann Park Conservancy along with my great friend Sandy Godfrey because I've been an enthusiastic supporter of Hermann Park,” Neely says. “It’s a beautiful park in the central part of Houston near my home. It is an artery that means a lot to many different types of people. Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the United States.”
Franci Neely also supported Hermann Park Conservancy’s Art in the Park exhibits during Hermann Park’s centennial, which placed artwork throughout the park to boost the culture there, according to the Hermann Park Conservancy’s website.
Franci Neely Is One of the Founders of the Houston Cinema Arts Society
A longtime supporter of the arts and a high school and college performing artist herself, Franci Neely launched the Houston Cinema Arts Society in 2007. According to cinemahtx.org, the Houston Cinema Arts Society enhances Houston’s cultural community with film-centric programming and year-round support for filmmakers.
As the founding chair of the Houston Cinema Arts Society, she helped present the Houston Cinema Arts Festival, which has hosted Hollywood heavyweights such as Tilda Swinton, Shirley MacLaine, Isabella Rossellini, John Turturro, and Ethan Hawke.
“My latest contribution to others is a challenge grant to the Houston Cinema Arts Society that was rapidly matched,” Franci Neely told principalpost.com.
The Houston Benefactor Supports the Baker Institute for Public Policy
Franci is a member of the board of advisers of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. She co-chaired its 25th anniversary gala; President Barack Obama attended and also spoke on a panel during the event, which raised $5.4 million for the nonpartisan think tank’s research and programming and more than 1,000 guests turned out. Obama deemed the work the institute is doing as “extraordinary” and Neely says she’s very proud to support the institute.
Franci Neely Supports The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
As a collector of black-and-white, female-centric photography, Franci Neely says Anne Tucker and Malcolm Daniel, former and current curators at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, respectively, have helped her with her collection. “Their keen eyes have been indispensable to me and much of that collection has been pledged to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,” Neely says.
Franci Neely also lent support to the museum for a French comedic-film event in May and in previous months, she donated funds for a screening of three Japanese films, along with a series called “Jazz on Film,” organized by guest curator Peter Lucas, and a Brazilian film series. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Franci Neely helped keep the arts alive by donating funds to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for virtual events.
“Living in the time of pandemic taught us a great deal,” she told ideamensch.com. “The arts community learned how to reach broader and more diverse audiences through streamed performances and curated tours and lectures.”
Franci Neely Says: Focus On The Good
Other Houston charitable organizations that have inspired the Houstonian to give include the Houston Grand Opera, Bo’s Place, an organization devoted to assisting children mourning the loss of a loved one, and the literary arts nonprofit organization Inprint, which began in 1983 and just celebrated its 40th year. Inprinthouston.org states the organization’s mission is to help seamlessly integrate reading, literature, and writing into everyday life.
Inprint offers a variety of community programs to more than 15,000 members of the Houston-based group, including poetry workshops, memoir-writing groups for senior citizens, expressive writing courses for those who are incarcerated, and a community reading series. There are also creative nonfiction, poetry, and flash fiction workshops available, and a push for local youth to get more involved with reading and writing.
“The arts have always been a part of me,” Neely says. “The arts have enriched my life.”
In addition to Houston, Franci Neely has actively given back in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where she was a member of the board of directors of the Nantucket Historical Association, chairing its trustees and governance committee and its 2011 antiques show dinner. She was also president of the Friends of the Nantucket Historical Association.
Franci Neely encourages others to give back wherever and whenever they can. “Do something that's outside your comfort zone,” she advises.