Program Officers: Foundations’ Cultural and Strategic Messengers
Author: Allen Smart
The foundation program officer has always had a difficult role. Part gatekeeper, part bureaucracy manager, part cheerleader – and now increasingly responsible for building collaboratives, promoting equity and engendering trust.
At their best, they can hold all these skills concurrently. At their least effective, they gravitate to one competency over all others and muddle through their tasks without meeting the demands of their internal or external stakeholders. The result: program officers that aren’t providing value to their grantees, communities or foundation leadership. They are too often just getting by.
The evolution of the program officer role has followed similar shifts in private philanthropy. Beginning as bank trust officers in the early days of philanthropy and growing to influential issue experts and movement leaders in the 60s and 70s. The 80s and 90s saw the explosion of foundation staffing, process and layers of decision making. Many program officers became primarily process navigators.
When I (with my colleagues) coined the term “Program Officer of the 21st Century” for a Southeastern Council of Foundations (now Philanthropy Southeast) conference presentation a few years back, the branding was meant to reflect the need to move program officers to a more community-engaged listening and facilitative model, in an effort to diminish the inherent power dynamics in the funder-nonprofit relationship. The change also tasked the program officer with responsibilities that extended far past grantmaking — to using the social and facilitative capital of foundations. This switch from steward to activator was, and still isn’t easy, for many. The challenge is how to best support this more active and nuanced role?
For decades, philanthropy supporting organizations, sometimes described as foundation affinity groups, have organized various trainings under such titles as Foundations 101 and the Art and Science of Grantmaking – brief general exposure curriculum meant to give those new to foundations a common language. Concurrently, there developed a series of leadership and peer support programs for those younger in their career; those in specific operational roles or those from specific demographic backgrounds, as examples. What didn’t develop, however, was any training or support for the evolving role of the program officer. Nothing to respond to the basic questions of “How Can I Be Good at My Job” or “What does a Successful Program Officer Look Like and How to Get There”?
Southeastern Soundings – Extended Edition (Spring 2022)
Author: Philanthropy Southeast
Southeastern Soundings, a regular feature of our Inspiration magazine, highlights new hires, promotions and board appointments by our members. For this issue, we had more announcements than would fit in our print edition, so we’re publishing an extended roundup online. Congratulations to all the people mentioned here!
If your organization has welcomed a new staff member or trustee, or promoted an existing staff member, we want to know! Please email the information to David Miller at email@example.com.
Jennifer Gray is the new executive director of the Joseph S. Bruno Charitable Foundation, taking over from Jera Stribling, who has stepped down following 26 years at the foundation. Gray was most recently program manager at the Daniel Foundation of Alabama. Stribling will continue to serve as executive director of Alabama Giving.
The Duke Endowment has elected Allyson K. Duncan to its board. Duncan served as a judge on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from 2003 until her retirement in 2019.
Dr. Eduardo Ochoa, a pediatrician, Dr. Jack Porter, a retired dentist, and Lisa John-Adams of Nucor Steel Arkansas were recently elected to the Arkansas Community Foundation’s board of directors. The foundation has also hired Annetta Tirey, formerly with the NorthWest Arkansas Community College Foundation, as program officer.
The EyeSight Foundation of Alabama has named Barbara Evers as executive director, succeeding Torrey DeKeyser. Evers most recently worked at the accounting firm of Truitt Tingle Paramore & Argent.
The Harvest Foundation board of directors has three new members: Travis Hodge, Sharon Ortiz-Garcíaand Anne Smith. Smith is the chief administrative officer and president of domestic upholstery at Hooker Furniture. Hodge is the human resources director for the City of Martinsville. Ortiz-García is the senior epidemiologist at the Martinsville office for the Virginia Department of Health.
Sara Bell is the new president and CEO of the Polk County Community Foundation. A co-owner of two local businesses, she had previously served on the foundation’s board.
The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg has welcomed four new board members: Michèle Alexandre, dean and professor at the Stetson University College of Law; Stacy Conroy, attorney and Florida Holocaust Museum board member; Kevin Sneed, dean of USF’s Taneja College of Pharmacy; and Nichelle Threadgill, chief medical officer at the Community Health Centers of Pinellas.
Announcing the 2021-22 Class of Hull Fellows!
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations
SECF is excited to announce the 22 members of the 2021-22 class of Hull Fellows, the region’s premier philanthropic leadership development program. The new class joins a community that includes more than 300 Hull graduates, many of whom now serve as CEOs and senior executives at their foundations.
This year’s class will begin their Hull Fellows experience with a kickoff at this year’s Annual Meeting in Asheville, followed by webinars and a spring retreat. This will culminate with the presentation of capstone projects at the 2022 Annual Meeting.
In the months ahead, we will profile each member of this year's class on our blog and in our weekly Connect newsletter so you can get to know them better.
If you know any members of this year’s class, reach out to them and congratulate them!
Introducing the 2019-20 Class of Hull Fellows!
In two months, the 2019-20 class of Hull Fellows will gather at SECF's 50th Annual Meeting to kick off the next chapter of the South's premier philanthropic leadership development program! The 25 men and women below will spend a year exploring their own leadership style while learning more about best practices and trends in philanthropy, the opportunities and challenges present in the South and ways they can help push philanthropy to new heights as they continue in their careers.
Following a two-day kickoff at the 50th Annual Meeting, the 2019-20 Class will participate in monthly webinars on a variety of topics, attend a Spring 2020 leadership retreat, and work in groups on capstone projects that will be presented at the 51st Annual Meeting in Nashville. Each Fellow will also be paired with a Hull mentor who will over advice and guidance during the coming year and beyond!
If you know a member of the new Hull class, send them a note of congratulations!
Special thanks to SunTrust Foundation for its ongoing support of SECF’s Hull Fellows Leadership Program
Courage to Lead (from our hearts) in Philanthropy
Author: Gayle Williams
Twenty-five years of work in foundations has confirmed for me what is now emerging as a truth in the leadership field: Trustworthy relationships and emotional intelligence are at the heart of all successful leadership. Foundations are heady places where academic knowledge, analytical thinking, measurable impact, and management competence are highly valued. These are all important, but insufficient for life-giving and effective work in family foundations where complicated family dynamics are at play as staffs and boards work on complex community issues. At its heart, philanthropy is about relationships.
During my 20 years as a family foundation executive director, the Center for Courage and Renewal was a source for nurturing my skill and resilience as a leader in at least three key areas: Show Up; Be Trustworthy; Stay curious.
Meet the 2017-18 Class of Hull Fellows
Developing the next generation of leaders in Southern Philanthropy is central to SECF’s mission. At the heart of this work is our Hull Fellows Program, which has graduated more than 300 people – many of whom are now CEOs, senior executives and engaged trustees at their organizations.
Today, we’re excited to announce the next group of men and women who will enter into this transformative program. The 2017-18 class of Hull Fellows represents the full diversity of SECF’s membership. The 24 fellows shown below will soon begin a year-long program that will explore the latest trends and best practices in the field, the history of the South and its philanthropic development and the major issues facing foundations today.
As with any SECF program, connections are central to the Hull Fellows experience. Each Fellow will be paired with an experienced mentor that will serve as a source of knowledge and wisdom, offering their own insights on how to lead in the world of philanthropy. The class will also develop long-lasting relationships among themselves, resulting in a peer network that will benefit them for the rest of their careers.
You’ll get the chance to meet the new class in person at the 2017 Annual Meeting. In the meantime, if you see anyone on this list you know, offer them your congratulations and support as they begin this journey!
CEO Forum Provides Chance to Discuss Challenges of Leadership – and Solutions
The benefits of association are – according to much of the literature on foundation philanthropy – among the most powerful tools for learning and professional development in the field. Interaction with colleagues offers valuable opportunities for building networks that are useful over the long term. SECF’s recent CEO Forum, held last week in Charleston, South Carolina, was no exception.
More than 40 foundation chief executives gathered over two days to study, reflect and share their experiences and thoughts on the future of philanthropy in the United States. Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, discussed the findings of one of the Center’s recent research projects, The Future of Foundation Philanthropy: The CEO Perspective. The survey data, collected from foundation leaders across the country, provided the perfect backdrop for helping us think about our own effectiveness.
Six Years Later, Hull Fellows Experience Continues to Make an Impact
I won't say that I was cocky or that I believed I knew all I needed to, but there was a large part of me that understood philanthropy as a simple and straightforward mechanism of American society. If the me of ten years ago was questioned, I would, more than likely, admit that the world of organized philanthropy was as about as complex as grass farming. Plow ground, sew seeds, water in, wait eight weeks, and bam...grass.
My year in the Hull Fellowship program changed this view completely. Not only did I discover that large social issues are a bit more complicated than basic agriculture, but also I found that many of the solutions I touted had been tried repeatedly, with little to no success. I learned that my family's foundation was as unique as it was common, that many of the issues we faced had been addressed by other family foundations in the past, and that many of our quirks were our very own. There were literally hundreds of insights on operations and governance. I imagine the virtual lightbulb above my head burning with a blinding light by the end of my fellowship year.
Yet, these were not the most important things. My Hull Fellows class remains one of my favorite groups of people I have ever encountered. The diversity of background, of opinion, of thought, and of context drove incredibly rich discussions that forever altered how I understood parts of my world. There were fierce conversations, incredible moments of honesty, lasting insights, and friendships forged through it all. To this day, should a question or need arise, I have 19 people whom I trust intensely to answer my call. I was affirmed in my belief that it takes great people to make great ideas work. These were truly great people.