Author Archive

A Statistic that Hits Home

Steve GundersonMessage from the President

This one’s personal.

I just finished participating in the Council’s leadership convening on diversity and inclusion in philanthropy, which brought together CEOs, trustees, executive search consultants, HR officers, and Council members.

The conversation was anchored by a report the Council released today—Career Pathways to Philanthropic Leadership 2009 Baseline Report, examining the characteristics of foundation and grantmaking executives appointed during a five-year period (2004–2008).

The report looks at how the philanthropic sector chooses its leaders and what leaders themselves say about the process. This baseline report is part of a broader Council initiative, Career Pathways to Philanthropic Leadership, which focuses on inclusive practices in philanthropic leadership, talent acquisition, and management.

The research highlights will no doubt contribute to our field’s knowledge of executive appointments to foundations. But, the most illuminating and personal finding to me was the following:

The majority of the successful candidates transitioned from fields outside of philanthropy—primarily from the business (24.3 percent) and nonprofit (24.8 percent) sectors.

That’s why it’s personal.

I am an example of a leader in the philanthropic field who came from outside of philanthropy. I was selected to lead the Council on Foundations because the board believed I brought many years of professional experience as a change agent and a communicator to the position, along with a commitment to the common good. I also was eager to learn more about the philanthropic field—its successes and challenges—and to use my skills to help move the Council’s work forward.

At the Council, we celebrate diversity in all that we do. I believe diversity in thought, perspective, and experience is crucial to our field. In addition to race, gender, ethnicity, economic circumstance, class, sexual orientation, geography, and varying forms of ability. The greater the diversity and inclusive practices in our organizations, the greater our ability to lead and succeed; to have real impact.

If we are to realize this vision, we will have to strive for balance:

  • We must continue to seek the best ideas, resources, and people for our field—regardless of whether we find them in business, government, or elsewhere.
  • We must develop emerging leaders both in our sector and in our communities to assume the mantle of leadership for our sector.

That’s why the Council’s Career Pathways to Philanthropic Leadership project and field dialogue are important. The project is intended to help expand the pipeline of talent competing for top positions. It also reinforces the Council’s long-term commitment to leadership in the sector and to inclusive practices.

I am committed to this work because I know its importance to the field and its personal meaning to me.

Steve Gunderson is the president and CEO of the Council on Foundations.

Note to our readers: You can read this post on the Council’s blog RE: Philanthropy.