Investing in Leaders

By Joseph Henry
Edmondson Foundation
Colorado Springs

The success and stability of nonprofit leaders make a tremendous difference to the organizations they shepherd and the communities they serve, so the Joseph Henry Edmondson Foundation intentionally invests in leadership.

For Heather Carroll, the sole staff of the foundation, leadership is about board and governance, and also about the CEO’s performance. "More than anything," she says, "we focus on the interaction between the two." The foundation provides targeted funds that allow grantees to hire consultants who support and serve as mentors for the organization’s leadership team.

While this usually occurs in response to grantees asking for help, there are times when the foundation proactively, yet respectfully, offers it as an option. Heather cautions:

"Due to the implicit power relationship, we as funders have to be hyper-vigilant that an organization really wants and embraces this type of support." However, she continues, "Most Exponent Philanthropy members have the benefit of really being a part of the community in which they fund—it helps to have good relationships with the leadership of nonprofits."

The Edmondson Foundation has been particularly successful in helping grantees through leadership transitions. We spoke with Cari Davis, the past executive director of an Edmondson-supported nonprofit. She said:

"When I decided to leave and gave six months’ notice, Heather came in to ask if the organization would like some transition support, and I said YES, YES, YES! We had enough of an organizational and personal relationship to be able to have that conversation, and I would have felt comfortable, too, saying no thank you."

Heather concludes, "As a grantmaker, it is often difficult to ascertain the scope of our impact, but supporting our community’s nonprofit leaders always yields positive results. And we can provide this type of support for only $2000 to $3000. It’s a great way to leverage your funding and your relationships in the community."