Arnall Family Foundation: Helping to solve community problems

Lilli-Beth Brinkman
Sue Ann Arnall
Four years ago, when Sue Ann Arnall started the Arnall Family Foundation, she began asking experts how they would solve certain community problems in specific areas.
Since then, the foundation and Arnall individually have focused on those solutions, forming partnerships with people and agencies that are improving outcomes for foster children, improving the lives of animals and lowering the incarceration rate in the state.
“It had always been hard for me to look the other way (from) people in need and finally I didn’t have to anymore,” Arnall said of forming the foundation which she serves as president. “I could start helping.”
She jumped into the world of criminal justice reform, trying to understand why the state was sending so many people to prison and not addressing why they were going. Out of her work came a deeper understanding of these issues and lately, a proposed Diversion Hub program that is part of the upcoming MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) 4 sales tax vote.
Arnall also wanted to understand the foster care system and to find ways to support struggling families before their children ended up in foster care or to support ways to speed up permanent adoption for those in the system. Working in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Arnall Family foundation has funded programs like Family KINnections, which developed as a partnership between DHS and NorthCare, an Oklahoma City-based community mental health center.
This program provides wraparound services to support at-risk children living with relatives in a foster care-type environment, known as “kinship families.” KINnections is one of Oklahoma City’s early examples of the “pay-for-success” – outcomes-based – model of financing, which involves social impact bonds that tie financing of programs to measurable outcomes. When they work, the funding organization gets its initial investment back; in this case, the Arnall foundation will re-invest that money into other programs.
“It worked,” Arnall said, adding that now DHS is taking it over. “I am still thrilled about that.”
In other areas, Arnall and her foundation also led the way in the formation of the Right Horse Initiative, a national movement to support the adoption of horses and their welfare, a movement that now stands on its own.
One of the foundation’s goals is to help start a program, grow it to the point that it is sustainable on its own and then spin it off, which it did with the Right Horse Initiative, now administered as part of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Originally from Poteau, Arnall earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and a law degree from the University of Tulsa. She started her career in natural gas marketing, eventually becoming Continental Resources’ manager of oil marketing working with crude oil production.
In 2015, she turned her focus to community service with the formation of the foundation.
Arnall also is politically active, supporting judges and legislators who work for the good of the people and not for their own political and personal ambitions regardless of political affiliations, her bio states.
Arnall serves on the boards of the Oklahoma Humane Society, Criminal Justice Advisory Council, Oklahoma County Jail Trust, Mercy Hospital and the University of Tulsa.
She has two daughters, Jane Hamm Lerum, 29, who lives in Oklahoma City and is criminal justice policy adviser for Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey, and Hilary Hamm, 26, who is in graduate school in New York.
Arnall said the foundation wants to support innovative programs and not duplicate services.
“We want to help really good organizations provide evidence-based services that will make a difference, have impact, have outcomes,” she said. “I want to change the system and fix one problem and then after we fix that problem we go onto another problem.”