Philanthropy Colorado's long-time leader announces plans to retire

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Philanthropy Colorado has announced that CEO Joanne Kelley will retire from her role at the end of the year.

Following a career as an award-winning journalist, Kelley joined Philanthropy Colorado as its first full-time chief executive in 2009. Her leadership since then has resulted in a transformative period of sustained growth for the increasingly diverse and vibrant statewide network of charitable foundations, funding agencies, philanthropists, investors, and advisors.

Tariana Navas-Nieves, chair of the Philanthropy Colorado Board of Directors, commended Kelley for her contributions:

“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Joanne for her dedicated and humble leadership of Philanthropy Colorado as it has evolved and grown over the past 14-plus years. She reflects the qualities of an exceptional leader, and she will leave big shoes to fill. I know she is fully committed to working with us to find our next CEO who can expand and continue our work. Her thoughtfulness in preparing the organization for her departure has already been evident.”

Under Kelley’s leadership, Philanthropy Colorado’s membership has nearly doubled to more than 125 institutions. Its annual revenue has more than tripled. The organization’s steady growth and strong financial position has allowed it to increase its professional staff as well as its capacity to lead and serve the field through member education, peer learning networks and advocacy activities.

"I’m proud of what we’ve all been able to accomplish together through our many program strategies and advocacy activities -- as we work toward our vision of an equitable and sustainable future for Colorado. I also know there’s so much left for Philanthropy Colorado to do to build on our efforts to lead and serve our dynamic statewide network," Kelley said. "Our board leaders have begun working on a plan to identify Philanthropy Colorado’s next leader and I’m firmly committed to working with them to ensure a smooth transition over the coming months."

Kelley’s news reporting background proved relevant for a diverse membership organization that had long valued remaining neutral about issues facing philanthropy and society. She saw the importance of presenting fact-based information to her members and the philanthropic community. At the same time, Kelley recognized that taking a stand would become critical to remaining relevant in these times. This meant encouraging and moving the organization and its members to embrace public policy work as essential, not only for the field’s interests but also as a crucial lever for changing systems and addressing complex challenges facing communities throughout Colorado.

Kelley has worked with the board, staff and members on strategies that prioritized the need to increase Philanthropy Colorado’s statewide presence and focus more on rural Colorado. The organization also sought to build and nurture a growing number of peer-to-peer learning and action networks around a variety of topics, a model that has been replicated nationally.

Her efforts to understand the needs of Philanthropy Colorado’s diverse members also proved instrumental in holding together a big-tent organization as it evolved and embraced a growing commitment to advancing equity in the field and on behalf of local communities. This culminated in a new strategic roadmap that was first announced in 2020 and updated in 2023 to guide the organization through the next three years. The plan calls for Philanthropy Colorado to play a leadership role in connecting the dots on philanthropy’s long-time focus areas (such as education, early childhood, health and the arts) and the major crises facing democracy, the environment and other existential challenges facing Colorado communities.

During Kelley’s tenure, she served for six years on the board of Philanthropy Colorado’s national network, United Philanthropy Forum, during its expansion and evolution into the largest philanthropic network in the country. She has served in leadership roles on several other statewide and national boards. Kelley also formed numerous partnerships aimed at everything from measuring the economic impact of Colorado’s nonprofit sector to building bridges between the state’s foundations and the charities they support.

The board has created a committee to oversee the search and transition for a new CEO and hire a recruiting firm that aligns with the organization’s values.

Founded more than 50 years ago, Philanthropy Colorado represents a statewide foundation sector that invests more than $1.4 billion a year in nonprofits and communities in support of a nonprofit sector that generates well over $40 billion a year in economic impact in Colorado. Its current members include private and community foundations, corporate and government funders, federated funds and workplace giving programs, as well as donors and advisors.

Philanthropy Colorado’s mission is “to bring people, information and resources together to strengthen Colorado communities.”. 




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