President's Message: PNY at 40

Friday, June 7, 2019

PNY at 40
By Ronna Brown, President, Philanthropy New York

In mid-May, we kicked off our 40th anniversary with our biggest event of the year, our Annual Meeting, with a theme of Reframing Philanthropy.

We chose philanthropy as our topic and focused the meeting on new ways to reframe our thinking about our sector. We also celebrated 40 years of partnership with our members. I am proud to be part of the Philanthropy New York community and especially proud of the team we have here at PNY. I also want to thank our Board of Directors for generously hosting the annual meeting. 

With 40 years under our belt, we have learned some valuable lessons and experienced some pivotal moments. And one of those lessons is that the most trying and difficult times can also spur new approaches. In 2008 the world, this country, and this city all coped with economic shocks to our system. That crisis, which lasted several years, was painful for the communities and grantees that our members care about and support. Many foundations' endowments were hit hard and required re-thinking around how to best use the resources available given the need.

In hindsight, we can see that one of the funder responses to that time was a new focus on what we now call "promising practices" in philanthropy. Those practices include support for advocacy, a commitment to collaboration, and a commitment to equity and specifically, racial equity. These were not new strategies or practices in 2009 – but the increased attention was new.

Another outcome of that era was a new name for us! In 2009, NYRAG became Philanthropy New York – the name change represented a deep desire on the part of the board and this membership to expand our community and reach to be a genuinely collaborative hub for philanthropy in this city.  

With the board's encouragement, PNY responded to the changes in the field in the years after 2009 by creating programs that helped members adopt those promising practices; by convening members in newly formed collaborative groups and by starting our own work around advocacy and public policy including taking formal positions. 

That vision has continued to evolve into our current Strategic Plan, a bolder vision for this organization. It calls for PNY to not only support but to lead. That plan also reflects that we have grown more comfortable and confident in having a clear point of view about what impactful and effective grantmaking should embody. And that we can embed those ideas into expanded opportunities for learning, leadership development and relationship building. And, thanks to the support for the 2025 vision, we can invest in those opportunities.

In short, we are able to meet the needs of our members, expand our work and programming and have a clear point of view about what practices will support the work that leads to our shared goal of improving the social good. We can do that work only if it is in tandem with our members. Without your vision and continued commitment to supporting this field, PNY would not exist. With your continued support, we can move forward together to create the change that will lead to a more equitable, sustainable and democratic society. 

Happy 40th Birthday to us all!

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