Extra-professional Activity Yields Value

Posted By Kate Allison on August 05, 2015

This week, Pedro Ramos will begin work as the new president and CEO of The Philadelphia Foundation (TPF). Still basking in the warm reception this news attracted throughout the community last month, I cannot help but savor the privileges that volunteering for a worthy endeavor reward.


For this announcement, I wore a very different hat than my usual one. As a member of the board of managers, I along with an exceptional group of board colleagues rolled up our shirtsleeves and engaged in a robust process that ultimately brought Pedro to TPF.

The opportunity to lead the region’s pre-eminent community foundation doesn’t come around often. Retiring president, Andrew Swinney well guided the ship for 16 years. Selecting a successor to take over as the next leader was a stout responsibility and took a great deal of searching, assessing, deliberating and just plain thinking.

The roles community foundations are playing across the country are ever-changing. The models for collaboration that make them compelling organizations and the non-profits and projects they foster are not in need of a write-a-check-and-forget-it approach. They need “philantho-prenuership”.

Community foundations must serve at the crux of sustainable good and measureable positive social impact focused on community challenges of seminal concerns. The Philadelphia Foundation is ready to commit to what comes next as it looks ahead to its centennial celebration.  

To find the right leader with both the head and the heart to lead a critically important organization through a strategic transformation wasn’t an easy task. Our job wasn’t difficult because we lacked a talented and diversely credentialed candidate pool. Rather, we were challenged because of the number of highly qualified, truly interesting people with whom we met. How exciting to have time talking with accomplished candidates from across the country with chops, ideas and a desire to lead here in the LOVE region. How heartening to engage in conversations with fellow Philadelphians who have ambitions, visions and drive for a greater Greater Philadelphia. That was a privilege.

Beyond the excellent work of the search firm, Isaacson Miller, our path to the president was illuminated by an outpouring of interest from distinguished community leaders from all over. Listening to their hopes, perceptions, best advice and their cautions was priceless. To be on the receiving end of what each of them had to say, a privilege.  

The real honor in this search process came from saying “yes” to serve. Over six months, I spent a few hundred hours working with smart, incredibly insightful, tough-minded yet generously spirited search committee members who consistently maintained focus, scrupulously weighed information, thoughtfully wrestled with options and unanimously chose Pedro Ramos.  

The opportunity to join in these efforts with such gifted professionals in the shared commitment to do right by The Philadelphia Foundation and the community leaves me both inspired and grateful.  I learned so much from each of them – new ways to think about solving our community’s greatest challenges, how to examine leadership from many perspectives in all its unique and valuable forms and to trust inherent goodness when navigating new territory.  

What comes next?  The privilege of participating on the board as Pedro begins to map the future of The Philadelphia Foundation.

Kate Allison is CEO of Karma Agency and Vice Chair of the Board of Managers of The Philadelphia Foundation.