Strengthening non-profit leaders strengthens communities—The Forbes Fund launches ‘Catalytic Communities Cohorts’ program

FRED BROWN, of The Forbes Funds. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)

by Diane I. Daniels, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Since its inception 37 years ago, the leadership of The Forbes Funds has had an interest in small nonprofit organizations. Throughout the years its mission has been to provide emergency financial assistance to nonprofit organizations experiencing funding interruptions or short-term cash flow problems, and provide management consultation and advice and conducting regional research to identify unmet needs in the human services sector. Today, its mission has expanded to focus on building the management capacity of community-based nonprofits individually and collectively. The organization envisions Pittsburgh’s nonprofit sector as innovative, informed, and effective, and advances capacity building within and among the region’s nonprofits.

Enter “The Catalytic Communities Cohorts,” an initiative of The Forbes Funds with support from the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania and The Heinz Endowments.

The Cohort, which began in August, aims to advance the capacity of nonprofit leaders through mentoring, learning cohorts, and coaching sessions designed to improve leadership development, financial management, marketing and development support. During the first year, “C3,” as the Cohort is dubbed, will provide strategic, individualized training to neighborhood-based nonprofits within 10 vulnerable targeted communities—Homewood, Braddock, Beltzhoover/Knoxville, McKeesport, Wilkinsburg, the North Side, McKees Rocks, Carrick, Hazelwood, and the Hill District.

“TFF hopes to educate leaders to tackle their community’s individual challenges and ensure that necessary services and opportunities are reaching residents, all the while growing the skillset of these leaders, who live and work within the community, to keep pace in the 21st-century global economy,” TFF president and CEO Fred Brown said.

Sure, there are many challenges that vulnerable communities have, but TFF is looking to provide long-term sustainability in these communities—and empowering the leaders of the nonprofits that are “on the ground” in these communities can only lead to better outcomes for the residents in those communities.

“TFF sits at the intersection between funders and the nonprofit community,” Brown said. “Our work has shifted from a transactional focus to a transformational model that is anchored in a nearly 40-year history of advancing the well-being of our region by increasing the management and leadership capacity of human services and community-based nonprofits. We have lofty goals—50 communities transformed in five years. The work won’t be easy, but we have a plan.”

President and CEO of TFF for nearly two years, Brown brings over 30 years of nonprofit and public education sector experience to the organization. Most recently he served as the President and CEO of the Homewood Children’s Village and Associate Director of Program and Development of the Kingsley Association. He also has worked in a variety of leadership capacities, including the roles as supervisor, social worker, executive coach, consultant, conflict resolution and mediation specialist, coach and mentor. He invests his time, energies, and expertise in assisting a variety of communities and organizations to develop new and innovative programs that seek to empower at-risk populations and is actively involved in other aspects of professional development including dean of students, schoolteacher, adjunct professor, and project manager.

Brown also focuses on working with African American males to reduce minority dropout rates in post-secondary environments and bridging the divide between minority communities and their knowledge regarding energy reduction planning, carbon footprint analysis, and environmental justice leadership.


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