Philanthropy New York Leadership Transition

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Philanthropy New York Leadership Transition

A Letter From Ronna Brown

(See also PNY Board Chair, Kyung Yoon's Message on Leadership Transition)

Dear Members,

I am writing to share my big news: I will step down as President of Philanthropy New York at the end of 2020.

I am aware – deeply aware – that I am sharing this personal announcement at a pivotal moment in our national history. We are witnessing people uniting in unprecedented numbers to demand an end to the status quo. Foundation leaders are making bold announcements, seeking to ensure the sustainability of the nonprofit sector and affect meaningful and lasting change. We have a chance to lean into our values and engage our community to spark the transitions that this moment calls for and makes possible. PNY, and I, will continue to support you on that journey.

In the midst of a global pandemic and the continuing fight for racial justice, this might seem an odd moment for me to announce my impending departure from Philanthropy New York. I reached this decision only after long consideration through last winter and shared it with PNY’s Board at the very beginning of March (which I know seems a long time ago!) so they could begin the search process. I had intended to send this note to all of you immediately after. Within a handful of days, however, our world was turned upside down by Covid-19. Frankly, it felt wrong to send this note while everyone was overwhelmed by the onslaught of events, and all of you were rightly focused on supporting your grantees, colleagues, and communities while managing a transition to completely remote work. In this context, the Board and I decided together that it was best to wait until now to share this news.

Deciding to end my tenure as President was a hard decision to make. The simple truth is that being Philanthropy New York’s President is wonderful. I love this job because of all of you and the daily opportunity to work in partnership to do work that matters. Over the last 13 years, I’ve watched this amazing community of peers come together to reflect, learn and take action on critical issues. Since 2007, we went from NYRAG to PNY, hosted leaders like Mayor Bloomberg, Michelle Alexander, Secretary Hilary Clinton and Nobel Peace Laurete Leymah Gbowee at our Annual Meetings, developed projects like the Education Funders Research Initiative, came together through CEO networks, and created new series and cohort programs such as Philanthropy 101 and Leading with Race Equity. All of this has been in partnership with you, PNY’s members.

I am a firm believer that good leadership means knowing when an organization is ready for its next President. By the time I leave, I will have served as Philanthropy New York’s President for over 13 years. During these years, philanthropy—and particularly philanthropy in New York—has not only evolved as it survived challenges and crises, but also flourished. PNY has matured along with you and your institutions.

Our goal, the PNY Board and staff together, has been to make PNY serve as a hub for New York’s philanthropic community. As a hub, we have sought new and better ways to bring philanthropic organizations together, to initiate the discourse called for while supporting our members’ innovation, development, and steady commitment to their communities. Being part of the many changes and advances has been thrilling and satisfying. An equally critical goal this last decade has been to strengthen PNY and ensure its sustainability. I can leave with the confidence that PNY is financially healthy, the staff and Board are truly phenomenal, and the members fully committed.

The Board has appointed a search committee, chaired by Kenneth Austin, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at The Wallace Foundation. You will be hearing next from our Board Chair, Kyung Yoon, President of the Korean American Community Foundation, about the search process.

And what is next for me? For now, I am focused fully and solely on Philanthropy New York, on sustaining all our work through our current complicated times and ensuring a successful transition to the next President. Once I leave here in December, I have a two-part plan. First, I intend to contribute further by offering my services as a consultant within our philanthropic and nonprofit community. Second, I will be looking to find an additional new challenge where I feel I can make a worthy contribution. What I can easily commit to right now, however, is that I will always be available to support each one of you as colleagues and allies.

I hope to ‘see’ many of you in the next several months, but you certainly do not need to wait for me to reach out. Please give me a call any time!

Most importantly, I want to thank you – each of you as individuals and all of you collectively – for your myriad of contributions in creating, supporting, and sustaining this amazing philanthropic community.

Best regards,

Ronna D. Brown
President, Philanthropy New York

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