Basic Info

Ruth Ann Harnisch
Contributor Status:
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Career Info

Primary Industry:
Non-Profits / Philanthropy
Personal Career Headline:
Founder & President, The Harnisch Foundation

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Career Snapshot:


Ruth Ann Harnisch believes “The Final Frontier of Feminism Is Finance,” and she leads fearless conversations with those seeking to demystify their relationship with money. The founder and president of the Harnisch Foundation (theHF), celebrating 20 years of grantmaking, Ruth Ann is proud that theHF’s FunnyGirls™ leadership curriculum for girls 8-13 was recently featured on NBC Nightly News.

Ruth Ann has moved beyond philanthropy alone, using her investment dollars to jumpstart women-led businesses and other enterprises. She looks for projects she hopes will disrupt the status quo and give more power, money, and attention to people who have historically been kept out. Her early career in television, radio and newspaper journalism led to her investments in storytelling for social change. Collaboration with other funders through Women Moving Millions, Women Donors Network, Impact Partners, Superlative Films, and others has resulted in a surprising second career as a producer. Several of these films have had industry recognition (including the 2018 Oscar for Best Documentary) and cultural acclaim, such as the documentary blockbuster “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”

Ruth Ann is a lead funder of the Sundance Institute’s Women at Sundance initiative. She’s a longtime member of the TED community, and a founding funder of the TED Fellows Program, a four-time Spark Camper, an active funder with the Women Donors Network, a member of Rachel’s Network for environmental philanthropy, and 100 Women Who Care. She is a professional coach, a trained crisis counselor with hundreds of volunteer hours on the Crisis Text Line, and a mentor for the International Women’s Forum Fellows Program. Inside Philanthropy named her as one of 50 most powerful women in U.S. philanthropy.

What Else To Know

My Goal of the Day:

Every day, my goal is to be trustworthy to myself and honor the commitments I have made to myself.

My Thought of the Day:

THIS is my life, right now, in the present moment. It’s all there is! Make the most of it!

My Action of the Day:

Move! Whether running, walking, doing yoga, swimming, dancing, jumping – MOVE!

My Deed of the Day:

Every day, take at least one political action – call or write a representative, contribute to a candidate, publish an opinion, forward an article, get someone to register to vote, study an issue.

My Tip of the Day:

There’s always a happier thought – reach for it!

My Pic of the Day:
Tell Us More:

What do you love most about Your City? 

On my Facebook profile I list my home as Earth because I travel so often that no one city is home, and I make myself at home wherever I am. It’s so easy to find something to love about every city. In the past seven days I’ve slept in four different cities and each is My City when I’m there – because that’s where my life is happening! (Tonight, I’m in Toronto where what I love most is my friend Glenna.)

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant? 

I don’t usually eat breakfast, but when I have breakfast meetings in New York City, it’s my great pleasure to take guests to the Rockefeller Center Club where I have an egg white omelet with spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes, dry white toast, and too much coffee.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – Reading newspapers, and watching CNBC in bed with my husband.

10:00 AM – Email, email, email. (I am never, ever caught up.)

12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal?

I love a Sweetgreen Kale Caesar or Shroomami.

7:00 PM – Yoga, or some other physical activity toward my daily goals. (For most of my life, the answer would have been “watching Jeopardy,” but I quit cold turkey this year.)

11:00 PM – If I’m not in bed (I should be), I’m probably still answering emails and writing on deadline. I already did tomorrow’s NYTimes Crossword puzzle on the app, and I probably promised to quit again because I get so annoyed at the paid product placements in the puzzle; but then I remember how hard it is for journalism to be profitable, so I keep paying and playing.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)? Water. Tap water is fine. Cold-cold-cold-still-not-sparkling-no-lime-no-lemon-no-thank-you water is my favorite thing to drink, and I probably drink a gallon a day.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

Fitbit (How did I sleep? How many miles have I walked? How many steps so far this hour?) and Curb, because if I’m not walking, I’m in a cab.

What should everyone try at least once? 

This question challenges several of my basic beliefs.

1. Yoda says, “There is no try. Do or do not.” I live by that.

2. I also don’t embrace the concept of “should.” I believe we “get to” do things, we choose. There’s no joy in people “should-ing” all over themselves.

3. There are few experiences which would be appropriate for “everyone” except basic body functions, because we are all so very different!

That said, anyone looking to stretch their boundaries might consider taking an improv class. It can help you lighten up and take yourself less seriously, play well with others, think fast, and get outside of your comfort zone.

Where do you enjoy getting lost? In thought, in a good book, in a beautiful movie, in my husband’s beautiful blue eyes. But never, ever do I enjoy getting lost geographically. I’m “directionally declined” and have been desperately and depressingly and distressingly lost thousands of times, not exaggerating. GPS changed my life.

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