10 Questions or Less for Joyce White

10 Questions or Less is a feature here on the Forum’s Forum in which we get to know regional association staff members a little better—their work, what drives them, and more. This week,  Joyce White,  Executive Director at Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

You’ve put in a lot of work on the LearnPhilanthropy initiative.  Can you tell me a little about your involvement?

LearnPhilanthropy started out as a project tied to the strategic alliance between the Council on Foundations and the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.  The idea was to build on prior joint initiatives – primarily Essential Skills and Strategies and the Grantmaker Education Framework (PDF) – to strengthen the relationship between the two organizations.   An Education Design Team was formed and from the very beginning, the shared vision was for something bigger – a system of grantmaker education where learners of all kinds – program officers, CEOs, trustees, donors – would have access to the high-quality knowledge, skills, and connections they need.

The journey that started with that early vision for a field-wide collaboration came to an inflection point in July.  Over 70 philanthropic leaders with an interest in grantmaker education gathered following the Forum conference.  For two days, they worked with an exceptional team of consultants to answer a threshold question: Could we begin to co-create a field-wide system for grantmaker education?

It is probably a good thing that the Forum board assignment I was given in 2008 was a little vague.  Co-chairing the Education Design Team with Dave Campbell, McGregor Fund and Council on Foundations board member, has been a great “learning opportunity” – an education in organizational dynamics, community-building, collaborations, partnerships, and people.  We’ve come much farther than any one of us might have believed possible and we’re not done yet.  While I hope the workload lightens up, I’m also committed to seeing LearnPhilanthorpy continue.  It’s been a privilege to work with such a talented team and to know that we have taken the first steps toward creating change for the field of grantmaker education.

It’s been just over ten years now that you’ve been with Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington.  You were hired as the first employee and at the time, the group of funders that comprised GRANTMAKERS had already been meeting for over a decade.  What’s it been like to see that growth?

It’s hard to remember that far back!  I started with an empty office, clean desk, and a cardboard box of files.  I had no idea what a regional association of grantmakers was but trusted the people who recruited me to the job.  Having lived in Portland forever and having been involved in the nonprofit world and managed a grantmaking program was an advantage.  But the real reason for our growth and success lies in the people who are part of GRANTMAKERS.

At ever step of the way, the organization has been nurtured by its members.  They share their wisdom and time, volunteering to do many of the tasks done by staff in larger organizations.  And while we have grown to a whopping 2.5 FTE, we still depend on our funders to mentor new grantmakers, share their wealth of experience and knowledge with colleagues, and to participate in our learning community.

Is there anything GRANTMAKERS has planned for 2010/2011 that you are particularly excited about?

We are in an interesting time in our nonprofit lifecycle.  I think the next couple of years will be a time for our board of directors to consider the many options we have to grow beyond serving members to more of a leadership and advocacy role for philanthropy in the region.  Like every other regional association, there is the tension between service and leadership.  I’m excited that our board has begun to ask the questions and that we have an opportunity to create a thoughtful plan that will lead us to our next iteration. The work the Forum is doing around business modeling is going to complement the work we have on our plate.

What are you passionate about?

This is probably the hardest question!  I confess to being an issue “junkie” and get an adrenalin rush off people who are passionate about the work they do.  Perhaps that means I’m passionate about passionate people – those folks we interact with who are doing the heavy lifting in our communities, who are full of hope for the future, and want to create better lives for all.

What’s one thing you do as a CEO that the Forum network can help with?

The culture of giving that is the Forum network makes my job possible.  I can’t imagine doing this work without colleagues who understand what I do and perhaps even why I do it.  It’s the network that allows all of us to not just survive but thrive in the work we do.

Anything else we should know?

I’m really lucky to have found this work at the perfect time in my life!

If you’d like to recommend someone for a profile through 10 Questions or Less, contact Dan Brady.


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