Steve Gunderson’s departure leaves the Council on Foundations poised for global partnership


Chet Tchozewski

Chet Tchozewski

Chet Tchozewski

Last week Steve Gunderson announced his plan to resign as President and CEO of the Council on Foundations, effective 1 September 2011.

Steve has led the Council with great distinction since 2005 and his legacy includes adding a global lens to US philanthropy – and providing philanthropy and civil society around the world with an influential and supportive US partner in fostering philanthropy through leadership of efforts like the Global Philanthropy Leadership Initiative. He has graciously offered to remain a consultant to the Council while the board conducts a search for a new President and CEO.

Steve will bequeath to his successor an organization known widely in philanthropic circles as the place in the US to connect and learn, and for representing the sector’s interests to the US government, the news media, and the growing global community of philanthropists and social investors. The Council is well positioned for robust growth in the US and for productive networking globally. It is an exciting and important moment for philanthropy in the US and globally, and I am confident that the Council will find a new leader capable of building upon the strong foundation Steve and his predecessors have established.

As the Council on Foundations begins its search for a new leader, what role do you see for the Council within the broader community of global philanthropy?  Would you like the Council to provide more direct leadership in fostering international philanthropy and social investment outside of the US, or would you prefer that the Council focus mostly on the US and only provide indirect support to domestic donor support organizations in other countries – such as the members of WINGS?

Tagged in: Council on Foundations Steve Gunderson

Comments (8)

Jennifer Astone

Global philanthropy is a reality of our giving context whether it be local or cross-border. As an immigrant nation with multiple cultures at play and with a rich indigenous heritage of native peoples, we have a lot to learn from and contribute to the experiences of our neighbors around the world. I always find that I look at the U.S. and my local giving differently after I have met with or visited a colleague from outside the U.S. I think that the COF under Steve's leadership has recognized the deep impulse within the U.S. to do more outside our our borders. COF's programming and philanthropists can benefit from a global perspective while nurturing ties with peer organizations such as WINGS, AGN and others. Creating philanthropic communities that combine both local and global perspectives challenge us and enable us to learn about the diversity of thinking and philanthropy that exists and, I think, ultimately, opens the door to hope and possibility.

Akwasi Aidoo

Like many colleagues, I'm saddened by Steve's resignation. He took the Council on Foundations far beyond the frontiers of the US to the rest of the world and, by so doing, narrowed the ever-widening globalization gap between the US philanthropic sector on one hand and both the governmental and business sectors on the other. That's an accomplishment we must all hope will be deepened and consolidated by Steve's successor, in at least two ways: fostering more shared learning with philanthropic networks and infrastructure organizations of the Global South; and increasing US advocacy efforts on the values of international grantmaking and global solutions.

Chet Tchozewski

Hi Janet: As a leader of African philanthropy I realize what a challenge you face. The Africa Grantmakers Network ( is an important new addition to the landscape of global philanthropy and the network of grantmaking support organizations. It gives the CoF and other US donor support organizations a solid anchor to bridge to in Africa. When is the next Pan African Grantmakers Assembly?

Sarah Hobson

The Council on Foundations has an important role to play by informing and enabling international giving. An increasing number of US funders want to engage directly with on the ground solutions in different parts of the world. The Council has the knowledge and experience to advance a thoughtful form of international giving that supports locally defined initiatives to address complex realities. I hope it continues to provide leadership in this area.

Peter Laugharn

Steve's commitment to international philanthropic collaboration on global issues has been inspiring, and is an important part of his legacy at the Council on Foundations. I very much hope that the Council will continue to emphasize global issues in the search for Steve's successor.

Janet Mawiyoo

I really think the world is now too small for any part to think they can work and act independently, without carering if other parts are making progress or not. I have been quite happy with the opening up by the Council on Foundations to a wider and more global outlook of philanthropy during Steve's tenure of office which has been quite visible in COF conferences in recent years, and was taken aback by what appears to me like a premature departure. I hope like is expected of all good organizations, the leadership he showerd was owned and internalised in the COF, in such a way that the new leadership will only take it to the next level. We in Africa are set and ready to work with such broad minded leaders across the globe and are working hard to strengthen linkages with other global philanthopic networks through the newly created African Grantmakers Network. Chair AGN.

Bronwen Jones

Philanthropy cannot focus on one country alone, even if it is based in the most powerful nation on earth. We are all interlinked now and need to tackle problems and solutions with partners - geographically close, climatically close, culturally close. And once in while we should seek help and partnership with our direct opposites, where surprising answers will lie. Philanthropy is also not just about massive gifts; to give is human; to give one's time, to share one's food, to recognise that paring down our personal materialism is a life or death solution for another human being.

Caroline Hartnell

I was personally very sad to hear that Steve Gunderson is stepping down as Council on Foundations President and CEO - I have always found him approachable and open to ideas. I very much appreciate his contribution to global philanthropy – as Chet puts it, providing philanthropy and civil society around the world with an influential and supportive US partner. I certainly hope that his successor will continue to do this, for example through leadership of efforts like the Global Philanthropy Leadership Initiative. The ideal is that there should be strong, thriving donor support organizations all over the world, but this is a very long way from being realized. There are strong organizations in a few countries but many are fragile and operate on a shoestring. While the founding of the African Grantmakers Network was a milestone event, it’s sobering to realize that India as yet has no donor support organization – as pointed out by Priya Viswanath in her write-up of the Philanthropy Leadership Confluence (Latest from Alliance, 27 June). Philanthropy around the world needs all the support it can get – provided it is delivered in the right way, with the end goal always to foster philanthropy that is appropriate for each country, supported by strong independent organizations. I hope Steve’s successor will take up where he left off.

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