New Leaders See Community Foundations as More Than a Philanthropic Bank

Mar 25, 2024

Dozens of community foundations have new presidents, who are turning their well-capitalized philanthropies into key players in progressive policy battles.

A new generation of community foundation leaders want to change their organizations’ philanthropic role. Instead of managing the charitable assets of local wealthy donors, as they have done for more than a century, the new leaders are hoping to connect to new donors with activist interests and are attempting to form regional grant makers into a progressive policy juggernaut. By becoming players in city debates and banding together nationally to share expertise and advocacy muscle on issues that include racial justice, immigration, and climate change, the new community foundation heads are doing more than stewarding donors’ charitable dollars.

More than three dozen community foundations named new leaders in the past three years, as many baby boomers have retired. The new faces — including people leading funds in Atlanta, Boston, Baton Rouge, Charlotte, Cleveland, Marin County, Calif., and New York — have often replaced those who held their positions for more than two decades.

"Rhea Suh, president of the Marin Community Foundation, who previously served as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Obama administration and led the Natural Resources Defense Council, hopes that community foundation leaders can demonstrate their political sway.

Says Suh: 'The solutions to many of the things that we’re looking for, and leadership that we’re so desperately craving today, is likely to come from the local level.'"

Read the full article by Alex Daniels in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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