Greg Friedman of Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award

Greg Friedman

Board Member

The Marine Mammal Center

2000 Bunker Road, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito 94965-2619


Professional background: CEO and Founder of Private Ocean Wealth Management

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, emphasis on taxation, University of California, San Diego; Master of Science degree in financial planning, emphasis on Taxation, Golden Gate University

Number of staff: TMMC Staff total 105 as of 08.20.2020 (87 FT / 18 PT)

Describe your organization: The center is a global leader in marine mammal health, science, and conservation, and is the largest marine mammal hospital in the world. We advance global ocean conservation through three core areas: animal care, scientific research, and education. Annually, we respond to 10,000+ calls from the public reporting marine mammals in distress, publish approximately 20 peer-reviewed papers, educate 100,000 visitors and youth, and train 100+ marine science professionals from around the world.

We bring decades of marine mammal experience to the conservation of endangered and threatened species and advocate for effective policies that protect marine mammals and our ocean environment.

Tell us a little bit about yourself: As a California native, I grew up living on the beach enjoying the oceans and the state’s abundant natural resources. Over the years, I’ve watched as our marine life and our environment have suffered – and I have always believed that we each have a responsibility to do what we can to protect our world for future generations.

After many years launching and running two companies – wealth management and a software company – all with a focus on helping people, I very much wanted to increase my activities to help with the environmental issues that we face. This led me to The Marine Mammal Center, and I was incredibly impressed and humbled at the impact they were making to care for marine life and our oceans.

My primary role is as CEO and founder of Private Ocean Wealth Management, headquartered in Marin County with locations in San Francisco and Seattle. Ours is a service industry, and our goal is singular – to help people achieve their life goals and take care of their loved ones. Serving on the board for the Marine Mammal Center was a natural fit for me, as it involved the care of a much larger population.

What is your role in the organization?

I am an active member of the board of directors, and serve as vice-chair of the finance committee.

How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

As a veterinary hospital, the center is classified as an essential service and is continuing its commitment to rescuing stranded marine mammals along California’s coast and in Hawaii and continuing treatment of animals currently at our hospital facilities in a way that optimizes safety for humans and animals during this global health crisis.

As a critical animal welfare provider, we continue to mobilize our mission every day, whether we are rescuing whales entangled in fishing gear off the California coast, conducting new research to strengthen marine conservation, training first responders, or engaging future ocean stewards with now virtual science-based education programs that bring science to life.

Before the economic impact of the global pandemic became evident, the center was anticipating meeting and even exceeding its revenue goals.

As the economic and philanthropic impact of the pandemic became clear, the center projected closing the fiscal year 2020 with a $1.5M reduction in earned and contributed revenue. To keep the budget balanced, the center judiciously eliminated items, such as travel, professional fees, and non-essential training, that do not negatively impact our core mission or our people.

The center also secured a $1.3M Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan through the CARES ACT. We are anticipating that earned and contributed revenue will be lower than expected again in the new fiscal year and are budgeting conservatively, while also determined to maintain our core capacity and readiness for when the economy recovers.

What are the ways your organization responded to increased demands for services, and fiscally, in what has your organization been forced to adjust?

Throughout the pandemic, the center has remained operational for animal rescue, response, and rehabilitation while pivoting to distance learning to continue our education mission.

As a hospital, the center is already well-versed in keeping people and animals safe from contagious diseases and other health risks. In addition to our normal daily safety regimens and protocols, to protect the health of our staff and volunteers, we heightened our sanitization routines even more and ensured staff and volunteers have adequate personal protective gear.

Among many other safety measures, we made changes to our animal care operations, such as reducing the number of staff and volunteers at each shift, implementing social distancing per CDC guidelines, and eliminating non-essential projects.

We also reduced the number of individuals who participate in responses and increased our communications with state, national, and county staff at areas in which we typically rescue animals to support messaging to request that the public keep their distance from our crews, and the animals, during rescues.

While our visitor centers remain closed to the public, our marine science educators quickly pivoted to producing a rich array of online learning resources including live and recorded lessons and experiences to support students, teachers and families, as well as our volunteer community, during this time.

As all local schools closed, our school program staff devoted countless hours to supporting students and teachers. Teachers and schools, who have been struggling with the uncertainties of school closures and sudden switches to virtual learning, have been extremely appreciative of the help our education staff have offered.

In fact, despite this uncertainty, nearly all 50 plus middle-school teachers who participated in our middle-school program Ocean Ambassadors last school year have signed on for our virtual version of the program this year.

Our volunteer and learning and community team continue to provide learning opportunities and support for our 100+ education volunteers, while also sustaining connections to one another and the Center during a time of potential isolation.

The team also continues to serve in leadership roles with the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) and the Bay Area Climate Literacy Impact Collaborative (BayCLIC) collaborating with other organizations on important work related to climate change and developing tools and resources for educators and communities that will be available later this year.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I’ve been fortunate in my ability to contribute both financially and in any way possible to support the hard work and efforts of The Marine Mammal Center.

In a small way, I hope that I’m helping to raise visibility for the center and to influence others to support the efforts of the center because their work is so meaningful.

What is your biggest challenge today?

A significant challenge of 2020 has been adapting and keeping pace with the ongoing changes brought on by the pandemic while ensuring that staff, volunteers, and animals are safe and that marine mammals in distress receive the support and care they need.

As a veterinary hospital, The Marine Mammal Center is considered an essential business, and as such is continuing to rescue and rehabilitate stranded marine mammals in need.

While our mission focuses on ocean conservation, and the science behind how marine mammal, human and ocean health are connected, we also are an organization with animal welfare at its core. We are committed to accomplishing this work in a way that is responsible and optimizes safety for humans and animals during this global health crisis.

While the world is focused on the pandemic and other challenges, including fires in California and the extreme weather elsewhere, challenges also are continuing to increase for the ocean and the lives that depend on it.

Community support and partnership are critical to helping us maintain our core work and the momentum we are building to meet the increasing threats marine mammals and the oceans face.

From the depletion of fish stocks to marine debris and increasing ocean temperatures, human activity threatens marine ecosystems that are vital to the health of our ocean and all life on earth.

Marine mammal populations are facing increasing threats everywhere in the world. The number of animals the Center responds to and rescues each year is variable, but recent trends lead us to believe that numbers will continue to increase, with cyclical spikes occurring more frequently.

Our most pressing need is for unrestricted funding to allow us to adapt and navigate the current challenges while continuing our core critical work. In many cases, we are the only organization with the authorization, capacity, and experience to be rescuing and rehabilitating threatened, and endangered marine mammal species found along the Pacific Coast and also pinnipeds in Hawaii.

What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?

Given the urgent challenges facing our oceans, the center remains focused on its vision to ensure a vibrant and healthy ocean for animals and people alike.

Our impact strategy is to advance our core program areas, which are represented by three strategic initiatives: 1) global Response, 2) teaching hospital, and 3) public awareness and education. Together, we can inspire future ocean stewards and promote action to save marine mammals and the ocean.

With 45 years of experience in marine mammal rescue, veterinary science, and education, the center has positioned itself to take an even greater role in advancing marine mammal and ocean health.

We are doing everything we can to maintain the momentum we have built to address these issues, while at the same time ensuring that our budget remains lean in recognition of another difficult year ahead. To the extent possible, as funding allows, we will continue to fortify our core operations ensuring we have the staff, resources, tools, and capacity to maximize our impact, meet the growing need in our oceans, and achieve sustained change.

What motivates you to volunteer your time and talent?

Two things: A deep desire to make a positive impact on the future we leave our children and grandchildren; and the amazing work being done (and the incredible people) at The Marine Mammal Center – it is inspiring and motivating to be a part of this organization!

How do you think the role of the board member will change in the next five years?

We will have to “up our game” and be even more engaged, providing not just financial and strategic help but very much live the values of the organization, as well as help enlist others – to make an even bigger impact!

What are the lasting impacts on people volunteering or serving on boards as the result of the COVID-19 crisis?

The need for engaged, passionate board members in charities is critical. The COVID-19 crisis makes the imperative even greater as charities, like all for-profit and nonprofit organizations, are under duress while the needs of the constituencies they serve are higher than ever.

Describe a fond memory you have about working with a staff member or client of your organization: The most memorable moments that we get to experience are the release of marine mammals that have been saved and nursed back to health.

In addition to the valuable research and information that is provided through that avenue, watching healthy marine mammals return to their home is a moving and inspirational event. And standing beside those who have done the work to save these animals is incredibly rewarding.

What other community involvement would you like people to know about?

As the CEO of Private Ocean Wealth Management, I am very proud that our firm is involved in a number of community service initiatives. It’s a large part of a culture to give back and to educate others, whether it’s through beach cleanups, backpack and school supply drives or through financial literacy efforts. Everything that we do is in service of others.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: I can’t really answer this because there are SO MANY!

I am a bit of a lifetime “student of business” and regularly seek out opportunities to either listen to successful business people or participate in discussion groups. What I can say is that for me to admire them they have to take great care of their customers, great care of their employees, and great care of the environment!


Current reading: “How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEO’s, Founders and Game Changers” by David Rubenstein

Stress relievers: Tropical travel (beaches!), tennis

Favorite hobbies: Boating (also a stress reliever!), tennis, anything on a beach!

Social media you most use: Facebook, Instagram

Words that best describe you: Passionate, empathetic, curious, motivated

Greg Friedman

Board Member

The Marine Mammal Center

2000 Bunker Road, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito 94965-2619


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