Leadership

Why do community foundation CEOs pursue “community leadership” as a key organizing strategy in their foundations? Because there was a leadership void in our community and we realized we were uniquely positioned to step up. Because we recognized we had important assets that could help address the huge challenges facing our community. Because under the status quo, things were getting worse in our community, not better.

In his acceptance speech for the 2012 Nicholas P. Bollman Award for leaders who inspire through values and actions, Claudio Martinez, executive director of Boston’s Hyde Square Task Force, reminded an audience of nearly 200 funders that the “journey to become visible is still too hard to travel.”

Let me introduce myself: I’m a young leader and a passionate advocate for social justice. I’m well into my second year as executive director of Social Justice Fund, a regional progressive public foundation. I’m an innovator. Since starting my role, I have implemented a new model of grassroots fundraising, leadership development, and grantmaking, resulting in significantly increased volunteer and donor engagement, interest in replication from around the country, and more than 60 percent revenue growth. I’ve spent time in the streets as a grassroots activist as well as the board room in the corporate sector. I believe that those of us with privilege-race, class, gender, sexuality-have a responsibility to work for equality and name injustice when we see it. I have seen the power of funding to transform society, but I’m deeply skeptical about institutional philanthropy.

The Council on Foundations (COF) recently released the 2011 Grantmakers Salary and Benefits Report. The sample includes 910 total foundations of which 544 are COF members. As Rick Cohen notes on his piece about the survey, the survey suffers from the limitations of self-reporting, as do most all of our sector’s data. That said, there are some important trends in the makeup of foundation demographics and compensation that are worth noting:

As my colleague Peter Pennekamp from the Humboldt Area Foundation says, when it comes to community leadership it’s not always the most pressing issue that you need to be working on; it’s the issue where there’s energy and heat. In a word: tension. And in our community, there’s tension around immigration.