Two Pittsburgh Foundations Join Forces to Launch Sabbatical Program for Local Nonprofit Executives

PITTSBURGH (March 7, 2022) – The McCune Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation have together created a pilot sabbatical program for local nonprofit executives.  

“Nonprofits perform essential and often heroic work in our communities, and strong leadership is essential to their success,” said Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “But even during good times, nonprofit executives often are under-resourced and over-worked. And since the pandemic, those pressures have magnified considerably. Many leaders are experiencing burnout and stress, and opportunities for visionary thinking and planning for organizational enhancement are consumed by daily crisis management. A sabbatical offers the opportunity for professional development, big thinking and much-needed rest and rejuvenation for these key leaders. It will help the participating nonprofits to retain these key leaders. And it also will increase the capacity of the organizations, as boards and staff develop systems to manage during the leader’s time away.”  

Added Reiman: “The McCune Foundation was an early leader in this novel approach to helping our nonprofits, and we are thrilled to partner with them on the next chapter of this important work.”  

The two foundations invited a small group of high-performing local nonprofit executives to apply for the sabbatical. The eight recipients of three-month sabbaticals in this pilot effort are:  

  • Janis Burley Wilson of the August Wilson Center
  • René Conrad of New Hazlett Theater
  • Danielle Crumrine of Tree Pittsburgh
  • Kathi Elliott of Gwen’s Girls 
  • Saleem Ghubril of Pittsburgh Promise
  • Cheryl King of Franklin Center of Beaver County
  • Cynthia Wallace of Oasis Project and Bible Center Church
  • Darryl Wiley of FAME  

The eight nonprofits each will receive up to $75,000 to cover the cost of the sabbatical and to assist the nonprofits in developing the necessary systems to continue operating the nonprofit effectively during the leader’s time away.  

In addition to sabbatical support, the Foundations are also providing professional development opportunities to senior staff at the recipient organizations. The POISE Foundation is the grants and fiscal administrator for the program.  

“It is more critical now than ever, that our nonprofit sector has continuity of strong leaders who are mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared to deliver a high level of service to a demanding community,” stated Mark Lewis, president and CEO of POISE Foundation.  “We applaud the McCune and Richard King Mellon Foundations for recognizing the need of respite for key leaders. POISE Foundation is excited to play a critical role in this effort.”  

The McCune Foundation launched its first nonprofit sabbatical program in 2000 and has provided 14 sabbaticals over the last 20 years. “Research has shown how effective sabbaticals are in supporting leaders and the organizations they serve,” said Laurel S. Randi, executive director of the McCune Foundation. “We are delighted to partner with the Richard King Mellon Foundation in launching the refined program which is now stronger than when we first began providing these grants.”     

The Richard King Mellon Foundation has come to the effort through a new program in its 2021-2030 Strategic Plan, called Organizational Effectiveness, to support the advancement and effectiveness of local nonprofits.  

There are four investment areas in Organizational Effectiveness: Leadership & Governance; Human Capital Management; Strategy & Learning; and Communications. In 2021, the first year of the Organizational Effectiveness program, the Foundation awarded $2.67 million in Organizational Effectiveness grants across those four investment areas to 21 local nonprofits.

Last year, applications for Organizational Effectiveness funding were by invitation only. Now, in 2022, the Foundation is inviting all interested local nonprofits to apply for Organizational Effectiveness grants. Guidelines for the Organizational Effectiveness program and the application portal are on the Foundation’s website.  

# # #  

About the Richard King Mellon Foundation: Founded in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is the largest foundation in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and one of the 50 largest in the world. The Foundation’s 2020 year-end endowment was $3.1 billion, and its Trustees in 2021 disbursed $152 million in grants and Program-Related Investments. The Foundation focuses its funding on six primary program areas, delineated in its 2021-2030 Strategic Plan.