Brenda Mainwaring, the President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation, one of the region’s largest philanthropic organizations, talks about the Foundation’s work in supporting the community. She shares recollections from her early life, a career going from cultural anthropologist to CIA analyst to corporate leader, lessons learned for leadership and life, and the importance of people and philanthropy in developing thriving communities.
Brenda Mainwaring is President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation, one of the state’s largest private foundations having awarded more than $500 million in grants since its inception. From a small country school and an outdoors childhood, Mainwaring started her professional life as an intelligence analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency specializing in demographics and cultural dynamics. She advised elected, appointed and military officials during the First Gulf War, the Yugoslav Conflict and military action in Haiti. Mainwaring has 30 years of experience in government and public relations and regulatory matters, including executive positions at Union Pacific Railroad, communicating through crises that included Hurricane Harvey, contentious layoffs and facility closures, and the COVID pandemic. Her undergraduate and graduate degrees are in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Iowa, where she served as a Teaching/Research Fellow.