Listening and Learning

CEO Mark Stuart at a reception with TSDF board chair Kay Coleman and representatives from our regional affiliates, Jack Raymond (Escondido Charitable Foundation) and former City Councilmember Barbara Warden (Rancho Bernardo Foundation).
CEO Mark Stuart at a reception with TSDF board chair Kay Coleman and representatives from our regional affiliates, Jack Raymond (Escondido Charitable Foundation) and former City Councilmember Barbara Warden (Rancho Bernardo Foundation).

As I pen this message, I have reached my fourth month at The San Diego Foundation. What a great 120 days it has been! I continue to rise out of bed every day thinking, “I don’t have to go to work, I get to go to work!”

I have been all over San Diego County—with more still to see—talking with nonprofit leaders, donors, civic and elected officials about their impressions of The Foundation. Some of the comments were great to hear and some not-so-great. However, all of the feedback was instructive and constructive. In every single conversation, there was agreement that The Foundation’s best days are ahead. On many occasions, I heard a yearning for The Foundation to be more responsive to the nonprofit community and for it to be the co-creator of positive change, connector of donors and causes, and an aligning partner of systems and structures.

More phrases that I heard time and time again were: be transformational not transactional; be both a community bank and a community changemaker; help nonprofits be more efficient and effective; lower barriers between Foundation fundholders and nonprofits; and help your staff know the nonprofit community better.

What Are Your Hopes for Us?

I have also spent time visiting with each member of our Board of Governors. I had about a dozen questions for each Board Member. I’d like to share a collation of their responses to one question: If you could ascribe one word or phrase to The Foundation, which would you hope us to become?

focus, leader, impactful, changemaker, program-focused, benchmark, connected, nexus, exemplar, engaged, heart, fearless, vibrant, pride, effective, strong, results-oriented, recognized, best, inspiring, facilitating, collaborative
Our board members shared their aspirations for us. These are the words they used.

I really love those aspirations. These words encompass all I hope The Foundation becomes known for throughout San Diego County. This word cloud is now on the bulletin board next to my desk—to remind me of where we aim to go.

As I start month five, I am still listening and gathering feedback. I have some ideas of a path forward for The Foundation, but I remember that great admonition, “You have two ears and one mouth, use those in that proportion.” I plan on asking more and more leaders two simple, but important questions: What do you think about The Foundation? How can The Foundation help you?

If you have some answers to those questions you would like to share with me, please send your thoughts here.

Thanks,
Mark