By: Ben Francisco Maulbeck on August 27, 2020
My heart is a tangle of emotions as I approach my last day as President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues this Friday, August 28. Even though I’ve had a year of planning to prepare for this transition, it’s still hard to move on from the most fulfilling job of my career.
Our Leadership Transition Committee and our consultants from Strategies for Social Change have been hard at work on our executive search these past several months. As you can imagine, the search is taking longer than expected given the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and related challenges. Our board chair Rickke Mananzala will share more detailed updates with you on the search in September.
In the meantime, I am pleased to announce that the board of directors has appointed Kristina Wertz as Acting President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, effective immediately. We always knew that the search might extend beyond my last day with Funders, and so the board wisely put in place this interim leadership plan. Kristina has ably led our programmatic work and funder engagement for more than seven years. As our Vice President of Engagement and Philanthropic Outreach, she has transformed Funding Forward into one of the most cutting-edge social justice conferences in the philanthropic sector, helped lead the launch of our Out in South Initiative, and laid the groundwork for Grantmakers United for Trans Communities. Beyond any single program or accomplishment, Kristina has been essential to imbuing all of Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ work with strong social justice values, thoughtfulness, and compassion. She previously served with skill and poise as Acting President during my sabbatical in the summer of 2018, an experience that will serve her and the organization well as she takes on this important interim leadership role.
While I’m sad to write these last pages of my chapter as President of Funders, I’m excited to be a philanthropic consultant, writer, and free agent for social justice in the new chapter to come. In particular, this October I’m honored to succeed Tim Sweeney as philanthropic advisor for the Freeman Foundation, a leading funder for LGBTQ communities in the South and for sexual liberation. In this capacity, I’ll have the pleasure of working with Weston Milliken – one of the founding donors and architects of our Out in the South Initiative – and with an amazing group of trustees and grantees doing trailblazing work.
In addition to my exciting work with Freeman Foundation, I’ll also be offering leadership coaching and strategic assessment and planning for grantmakers and philanthropic organizations. I also plan to spend more time than ever on my great love – writing, from magic realism and science fiction to essays and opinion pieces. I’m excited to continue being a leader for LGBTQ rights and for economic, gender, and racial justice in these new capacities.
As I reflected when I first announced my transition plans, my nearly eight years at Funders are filled with memories that inspire me with nostalgia and hope. In my early months with Funders, our staff was a dynamic duo with a modest budget but a whole lot of creative ideas. In the years since, we’ve grown to a $2-million-plus organization driven by a diverse, talented staff and board. Through initiatives like Grantmakers United for Trans Communities and Out in the South, we’ve moved millions of new dollars to movements for LGBTQ rights and social justice. But just as important as the money we’ve moved is the community that we’ve built. In these past six months, together we’ve weathered the pandemic of COVID-19 and a severe economic recession–at the same time as our communities have risen up against anti-Black racism, police brutality, and racial injustice. Our staff, board, and members have found creative ways to advance our work, to support each other, and to bring more resources to our communities at this crucial movement moment. At Funders, more so than anywhere else, I have experienced the true transformative power of philanthropy, the mutual love and generosity of humankind.
I’m closing out my work with Funders on Friday. Next week, the entire virtual office will be closing for a week of self-care and rest–a long-time practice that’s particularly needed in these challenging times. The day after Labor Day, you’ll be in the able hands of Kristina, Rickke, and the most amazing crew of board and staff I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. At that point, I’ll no longer be the President of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, but I’ll be proud to be a member, a partner, and the organization’s biggest fan.
Ben Francisco Maulbeck