It’s more than fair to say that in 2015, the Oishei Foundation continued to evolve in the ways we approach and engage the work we do. In past Reports, we have noted the excellent evaluations we’ve received from The Center for Effective Philanthropy, and we’ve also noted the needs for improvements that were indicated. In response, we broadened our work in Philanthropic Support, and made our complementary work in Knowledge Management and Communications full-time endeavors. This year is the second in which all these efforts have been in play.
We’re learning much about what that means to our daily flow of activities. Importantly, we’re beginning to understand the best ways to integrate the support work with the grantmaking work. After an initial start of having them all separate activities, we are now bringing them together and deploying them more fluidly so that appropriate levels of help are available when needed. We’re still at a point where we’re learning to draw the lines and understand better where our support needs to be pulled back, and when to connect an organization with other assistance, and that will continue to evolve. But at this point, we’re happy and excited with this significant change in how we work in the community.
This evolution is particularly notable in light of the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the Foundation in 1940, although its actual incorporation wasn’t completed until 1941. Thus, 2016 becomes the ‘official’ 75th Anniversary of giving. In any case, the largess of John R. Oishei has had a virtually incalculable impact on the lives of thousands of people in Buffalo and the region. While the initial focus of what was for many years called the Julia R. and Estelle L. Foundation was on children’s wellness and education in the form of scholarships, the areas of support have grown over the years and now encompass the quality of people’s lives in almost all aspects. The Foundation evolved into its current form and name and was incorporated in 1998.
Among other internal changes a ‘changing of the guard’ of the Board of Directors took place, with Mary Martino stepping down after over a decade of service, and Yvonne Minor-Ragan coming on to succeed her. Mary was among the original members of the Board when it was restructured, and was our first woman representative. Additional information about her service follows in this report.
We were pleased to recognize Larry Cook’s years and quality of service with a promotion to Vice President from Senior Program Officer. Among Larry’s responsibilities is supervision of the Mobile Safety-Net Team (MSNT), which, like Philanthropic Support, has proven to be an invaluable expansion of services that the Foundation provides to organizations in the community that focus their work on the social safety net and basic human needs. MSNT organized and hosted its first comprehensive convening of many of these organizations during the year, with more than 75 people in attendance. Plans are already in place for the next gathering. And last, we were pleased to recognize the importance of the role of Communications in our work by advancing Sally Crowley to the position of Chief Communications Officer, in which she will continue to expand the platforms on which we reach out to the community, and provide assistance to our grantees and colleague Foundations.
Finally, following our third iteration of the Grantee Perception Report (GPR) administered by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, we have entered a strategic planning process to reexamine our work and priorities. We will complete this work in 2016, and it is being facilitated by Fernando Chang-Muy, JD, of the University of Pennsylvania. We expect to continue to refine our approaches and understand, especially in light of what we learned in the GPR, how we can better support not only our grantees, but also our colleagues, and how we might find good ways of integrating the work of the public and private sector to bring the greatest benefit of the community.
We see tremendous opportunity for continuing to evolve as a Foundation, and to assist in the evolution of the region generally. Among our major strategies going forward is to bring people together from different perspectives and around different issues. We hope to talk with you, but certainly, feel free to contact any of us at any time.
P.S. We extend our sincerest appreciation to freelance writer, Maureen Purcell, who volunteered many hours of her time to write the feature stories in this report. Thank you, Maureen!