Paying it Forward through Endowment

Keeping Wolf Trap Strong for Generations to Come

Child holds a Wolfie toy at the Filene Center.

Wolf Trap celebrated its 50th anniversary last year to pay tribute to the past. But how can we ensure that Wolf Trap remains strong and vibrant for the future—for fifty more years and beyond?

Ed and Susan O’Connell, longtime annual supporters of Wolf Trap’s programs and members of the Catherine Filene Shouse Legacy Circle, had the same question. They wondered: how can they ensure that Wolf Trap will be around for their children and future generations to enjoy?

They found an answer to this question in Endowment Support at Wolf Trap Foundation.


A woman and her mother pose for a Selfie.

In any given household, setting money aside to grow and provide security for the future is important. The same is true for non-profit arts organizations; adequate, consistent annual funding means that essential programs can run as planned. As a donor, you help make that happen with your annual membership. But how does Wolf Trap ensure stability and growth for the future? Maintaining a safety net with steady, enduring support in reserve is critical. Building a solid endowment is key to granting that organizational strength.

That is why members like Ed and Susan are choosing to support Wolf Trap’s endowment in addition to their annual contribution. Wolf Trap Foundation’s endowment donors are forward thinkers—their gifts make a positive impact on the organization now and long into the future. In fact, in a typical year, Wolf Trap Foundation’s endowment provides more than $1 million in funding for programs. Some of this funding is generated from contributions made to Wolf Trap’s endowment more than 20 years ago.


Susan and Ed O'Connell at the Wolf Trap Gala.

Ed and Susan were inspired to invest in Endowment after hearing President and CEO Arvind Manocha describe plans for the Campaign for Wolf Trap: Our Next Chapter. In addition to tremendous capital improvements, this once-in-a-generation Campaign is strengthening Wolf Trap’s Endowment.

Ed recalls, “We immediately knew we wanted to participate. Arvind explained that the campaign had been inspired by commitments made by the families associated with the Foundation's Board and by other supporters during the dark days of the COVID epidemic. For decades, Wolf Trap had been the site of our family's ‘summer vacations,’ and the leadership's articulation of a vision of many families coming together to sustain the long-term future of the Park resonated deeply with our family.”


Wolf Trap’s Endowment is comprised of funding that was given to the Foundation for the specific purpose of being invested for the future. A trusted team of Board members and professional advisors oversees these funds for Wolf Trap. A portion of the resulting investment income is then used annually, in support of programs or purposes that are consistent with the donor’s wishes. Endowment provides a steady stream of support for ongoing programs and a measure of security during economic fluctuations. 


Wolf Trap has a diverse array of programmatic offerings; likewise, our endowment is allocated in a variety of ways. Donors may elect to support any of the following areas:

  • General Endowment Fund - Bringing important performing arts and education programs to audiences will always require careful stewardship and financial resources. General endowment support is carefully applied wherever funds are most needed in a given year to accomplish Wolf Trap Foundation’s mission.  
  • Artistic Excellence Fund - Outstanding performances connecting artists and audiences in a unique setting have been a Wolf Trap hallmark for more than five decades. Support from endowment increases the Foundation’s ability to create innovative original works, present programs of special artistic significance, and explore new opportunities and collaborations.
  • Future of Opera Fund - Wolf Trap Opera (WTO) discovers and trains the next generation of talent through one of the nation’s leading young artist programs. Endowment for WTO supports artist development from industry-leading professionals, innovative new productions, concerts at Wolf Trap and in the community, and inviting opportunities for audiences both experienced and new to opera. 
  • Leadership in Education Fund - The performing arts make us feel exhilarated, reflective, entertained, joyous, and focused. And so the arts can also help us succeed—as students, professionals, and citizens of the world. Endowment support promotes arts-integrated learning through the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, and access to opportunities for all ages through broader education programs.


Family on the Lawn pose for a photo.

Just as each member renewing each year creates an invaluable measure of support for Wolf Trap’s annual programs, each donation to endowment is pooled with the funds of others to create a more powerful impact. Gifts of all sizes are welcomed and invested equally. 


Donors wishing to honor a loved one or their family through the creation of a Named Endowment Fund, which is named in perpetuity, are invited to explore opportunities with the Foundation staff.

The newly created Edward and Susan O’Connell Family Fund for Wolf Trap allows for proceeds from the Fund to be used where needed most in a given year, providing both a measure of consistent support and valuable flexibility for the future.

We are grateful to Ed and Susan, and fellow members of the Wolf Trap family, for supporting the Foundation’s Endowment, ensuring perpetual funding for generations of arts lovers to enjoy all that Wolf Trap has to offer.

To learn more about the Campaign for Wolf Trap: Our Next Chapter’s goals to strengthen America’s only National Park for the Performing Arts and grow Endowment for the future, please visit We’re here to help! To discuss how you can participate, please contact us at