In this letter to members, friends and supporters of Grassroots Grantmakers, Board Chair Patrick Horvath recently announced the December 31, 2014 retirement of the network’s Executive Director, Janis Foster Richardson.
December 18, 2013
Dear Friends and Supporters of Grassroots Grantmakers,
The Grassroots Grantmakers Board of Directors would like to share some important news with you. Janis Foster Richardson, our beloved founding Executive Director, guide, and inspiration, has announced that she will be retiring at the end of the 2014. Typical of Janis’s generosity of spirit and commitment to our work, she has given us a full year’s notice while she continues to lead Grassroots Grantmakers and help the Board prepare for the transition to new leadership. Over the next year the Grassroots Grantmakers Board will be working closely with Janis and many of our trusted friends and partners to identify the best leader and leadership structure to help Grassroots Grantmakers most effectively continue its work of helping everyday people to build neighborhoods and communities that are welcoming, vibrant, resilient, and just.
Janis joined Grassroots Grantmakers in 2004 as our first Executive Director, but had been involved with the network for a decade previously during her tenure at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis and as a consultant for philanthropies and community builders. Under Janis’s leadership, Grassroots Grantmakers went from a loose collaboration of twenty or so community foundations known as the Neighborhood Small Grants Network, to a professionally staffed funders’ affinity group with over sixty members throughout North America. It grew from a technical assistance provider for foundations operating small grants programs to a free-standing nonprofit that is one of North America’s leading resources for foundations investing in place, and a thought leader in the burgeoning field of citizen-driven community change.
During Janis’s tenure, she conceptualized and developed Grassroots Grantmakers’ signature program, our “On the Ground” learning gatherings that bring groups of funders, community organizations, and active resident leaders together for intensive study of resident-led community building in a specific location. The On the Ground sessions have grown in size and influence under Janis’s leadership, and will continue to play a central role in Grassroots Grantmakers work after Janis’s departure.
Over the past nine years Janis also organized and hosted dozens of webinars on nearly every aspect of resident-led community change, and built Grassroots Grantmakers’ website into a key resource on micro-granting to support and strengthen resident-initiated and led efforts in local communities. Her Big Thinking on Small Grants blog, with its thoughtful pieces on the opportunities and challenges associated with working from a “we begin with residents” point of view, is now regarded as a key resource for funders, practitioners, and residents who are united by their commitment to making resident engagement and problem-solving real in local communities. We are delighted to report that despite her retirement from Grassroots Grantmakers, Janis’s blog will continue, and that she hopes to continue to do some writing and consulting as she slows down to spend more time with her husband, aging parents, children and grandchildren.
We are heartened to know that Janis will remain close to us as she continues to work with organizations and groups who are inventing, rediscovering, and demonstrating ways to support groups of everyday people as community builders and change-makers. Upon announcing her retirement to the Grassroots Grantmakers’ Board of Directors, Janis expressed her appreciation for the exemplary organizations and people that make up the heart of the Grassroots Grantmakers’ network. As those of you who know Janis are well aware, Janis is at heart an entrepreneur. She loves to dream big, imagine possibilities, and start new projects. As she told the Board when she announced her resignation, it is quite a testament to the strength of the relationships she has developed in the network, and to the constant possibilities for new invention in our work, that she has stayed at Grassroots Grantmakers for nine years.
The Grassroots Grantmakers Board extends our heartfelt thanks to Janis for leading the organization so successfully for so many years. We are beginning to plan for her transition even as we work with her to continue developing an exciting slate of programming in 2014.
Please join us in extending to Janis heartfelt thanks for all she has done to lead our network with creativity, passion, determination, and an unwavering commitment to the values and principles of grassroots grantmaking. The Board is going to take advantage of this extended time of transition to reach out to many of you in the coming weeks and months to gain a better understanding of how Grassroots Grantmakers can be most useful to you and your work. If you would like to share your thoughts with us, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Board Vice President Sharnita Johnson of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at email@example.com.
Patrick J. Horvath, Chair, on behalf of Grassroots Grantmakers Board of Directors
Director of Strengthening Neighborhoods
Director of Economic Opportunity
The Denver Foundation