CFLeads Snapshot: April

CFLeads Snapshot: April
In April, community foundations gathered all across the country to engage in welcoming work, learn about and share economic mobility best practices, and so much more!

15 community foundations in the Community of Practice gather in Dallas, TX for Welcoming Interactive

Top photo credit: Jaren Collins

In April, 15 community foundations participating in the CFLeads and Welcoming America Community of Practice (CoP) met in Dallas at the Welcoming Interactive! This Community of Practice is designed to support community foundations in deepening their welcoming and belonging work and knowledge of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

CoP participants engaged in sessions that focused on successful practices and inspiring stories about immigrant inclusion, programs, policies, and partnerships on economic development, civic engagement, government leadership, and more. Attendees also learned about local innovations from peer communities and came away with new ideas and energy to foster welcoming places for all.

Thank you to the following CoP community foundation participants for your energy and dedication:

Executive Leadership Institute for VPs gathered for their final meeting in Chicago, IL

The 2023-24 Executive Leadership Institute for VPs cohort gathered for their final meeting in Chicago, IL, generously hosted by Chicago Community Trust. Participants wrapped up their community leadership journey and heard from Chanda Smith Baker, ELI for VPs 2023-24 cohort Special Advisor, and Former Chief Impact Officer & Senior Vice President of the Minneapolis Foundation.

The cohort met in small groups for peer coaching and gave lightning presentations about their identified community leadership challenge. Participants also had the opportunity to hear from Ianna Kachoris, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at Chicago Community Trust who shared Chicago’s role in supporting and advancing policy and advocacy efforts to effect systemic change.

The cohort then adjourned with a site visit to the Woodstock Institute where they heard from staff members Horacio Mendez, President & CEO, Brent Adams, Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, and Amber Hendley, Director of Research regarding their partnership and strategic work with the Chicago Community Trust.  

Please join us in congratulating the following ELI for VPs 2023-24 cohort participants! We wish you well in your leadership journey, and are here to support you in the future.

CFLeads launches second Gun Violence Prevention Network cohort at first meeting in Washington, D.C.

CFLeads recently launched the second Gun Violence Prevention Network (GVPN) cohort made up of community foundation teams from:

Participants in the second GVPN cohort met for the first time in April in Washington, D.C. at the Center for American Progress. The first meeting allowed participants an opportunity to network and learn about each other’s work, gain an understanding of gun violence as a public health issue, and determine technical assistance needed around data. 

Participants also heard from incredible speakers throughout their time in Washington, D.C. including:

Additionally, our content partner, Reggie Moore, Director of Violence Prevention Policy and Engagement for the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Comprehensive Injury Center, helps GVPN participants learn about and apply specific gun violence prevention best practices.

Thank you to the California Wellness Foundation for supporting the Gun Violence Prevention Network.

Community foundations gather for the first Economic Mobility Regional Convening in Syracuse, NY

In partnership with the NY Funders Alliance, CFLeads held the first Economic Mobility Regional Convening in Syracuse, NY! CFLeads’ Economic Mobility Regional Convenings are in-person day-long gatherings hosted around the country for community foundation staff to delve deep into core economic mobility concepts and explore the ways that CFs can work with local decision-makers, such as residents and local government, to advance economic mobility.

We greatly appreciate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for making these Regional Convenings possible.

Additionally, thank you to all the regional community foundations who participated and made the first Economic Mobility Regional Convening such a success:

Conferences and Speaking engagements

Community foundations engage in leadership learning at 2024 EmpowerCF Annual Conference in St. Cloud, MN

At the end of April, Mary L. Thomas, CFLeads President & CEO, gave a keynote speech at Community Giving‘s 2024 EmpowerCF Annual Conference in St. Cloud, MN. The conference focused on how community foundations can influence positive change and strengthen communities through philanthropy.

In Mary’s keynote speech, Unleashing the Power and Potential of Community Foundations, she outlined the dynamic landscape of community foundations in the 21st century and the progress and growing significance of community leadership grounded in place-based philanthropy. Mary underscored the evolution and imperatives of community leadership, and how these advancements empower community foundations to lead positive change, remain relevant, and harness their full potential in addressing the pressing issues of our times.

Additionally, Mary co-facilitated a conference session titled Amplifying Community Voice For Transformative Change, alongside Eunice Adjei, Director of the Jugaad Leadership Program, where they shared and discussed their experience in developing successful grassroots leadership programs.

CFLeads attends the 2024 Community Based Violence Intervention & Prevention Initiative Conference in Chicago, IL

Caroline Merenda standing with a speaker, posing for a picture

Caroline Merenda, CFLeads’ Chief of Staff, attended the 2024 Community Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative Grantee Conference in Chicago, IL, hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice. The conference included inspirational messages from Attorney General Merrick Garland, City of Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson, Jocelyn Fontaine of Urban Institute, the Black and Brown Collective, Senator Durbin and Greg Jackson, Jr., Deputy Director of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, and others from around the country.

With their local relationships and broad community betterment missions, community foundations are ideal partners in this important work. Contact Caroline Merenda at to learn more about how your community foundation can get involved.


Building Stronger Communities: The Community Heart & Soul Initiative

CFLeads partnered with  Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque in April to discuss the Community Heart & Soul® initiative, which brings communities together to connect the dots between issues like rural quality of life, economic development and academic achievement, and to work collaboratively toward holistic solutions. In this webinar, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque shared how meaningful community engagement and local endowment building can work together with inspiring results. 

Thank you to our speakers for engaging in a lively discussion:

CFLeads welcomes Simeon Banister to the Board of Directors

Headshot of Simeon

In April, we were thrilled to welcome Simeon Banister to our dynamic board of forward-looking community foundation CEOs from across the country! Simeon is the President and CEO of the Rochester Area Community Foundation, working to create an equitable and vibrant community in Rochester.

Simeon brings a wealth of knowledge to our board as a prominent figure in his community. CFLeads President & CEO, Mary L. Thomas stated, “I am delighted that Simeon Banister is joining our CFLeads Board of Directors. His thought leadership and myriad of perspectives working across the three sectors will bring the kind of leadership we need in advancing the practice of community leadership across the U.S.”

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