This June, I’ll wrap up 15 years leading the Community Foundation. It has been a remarkable journey. As I reflect, some key milestones rise to the surface that I think bear lifting up:
My time in this role has been punctuated by some profound crises — the 2007-2009 global financial crisis and Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a lot of scary investment and political volatility. As an institution, we were designed for the long haul. As we approach our 100th year, I am proud that our fiscal model has endured, we’ve grown substantially, and our role in and impact on the region only stands to grow more in future years.
CNY PHILANTHROPY CENTER
Every day when I walk into our building, I still can’t believe we pulled off the project. There are so many to thank: our board (who took a great leap of faith during the middle of a financial crisis), the great construction and design teams, tenants who wanted to be a part of the space, and the thousands of people who have stepped over the threshold to join together in what is now community space.
How best can we move our community forward? Our answer has been emphatically “together” and this has manifested in many collaborations, funder co-investments, and experiments with new ways of deploying philanthropic funds. Examples abound, like our COVID-19 Community Response Fund, the Black Equity & Excellence Fund, multiple literacy coalitions, the new LeadSafeCNY task force, our new participatory budgeting effort, and our Cortland Bright Ideas initiative.
As someone responsible for leveraging community impact using finite amounts of philanthropic resources, I believe that our commitment to equity has been a great investment decision. Using a lens that takes into account systemic bias in all its forms — racial, economic, gender, identity, and ability— enables us to get better results with the funds that donors have entrusted to us. Equity is simply good stewardship.
We have supported Say Yes for more than a dozen years, as the financial backbone and, now, staffing the program. What started as a vision has endured with the help of a collection of community partners, is now permanently endowed, and has supported hundreds of kids and families in Syracuse to help grow opportunity for post-secondary achievement.
I want to thank our current and former staff and board members, who have been rock stars throughout my tenure. The confidence of our donors and our partners, and their faith in our work, has been profound. I will be forever grateful for the trust that you’ve put in me since I arrived in 2008.
Later this summer, in August, I will continue my professional journey as the new CEO of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation in Massachusetts. This is a great career capstone opportunity for
me to help build up the scope, scale and impact of community philanthropy in Central Massachusetts — a community that my wife and her family also have connections to. So, I won’t be far away — just down the NYS Thruway and Massachusetts Turnpike — and we will always welcome visitors!