Valerie S. Lies to Step Down as President + CEO of Donors Forum June 2014

March 4, 2013

Valerie S. Lies, Donors Forum's President and CEO, announced today she will retire as of June 30, 2014. Lies, 64, was appointed to the position in 1987, and through the years has overseen numerous initiatives and innovations that have increased the effectiveness of philanthropy and nonprofits in Illinois, and made Donors Forum a model for organizations of its kind across the country.

Lies is Co-chair of the Illinois Attorney General's Charitable Advisory Council, serves on the Governor's Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise Development, and is currently on the board of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). She has received numerous awards and honors, including being named twice, most recently in 2012, by The Nonprofit Times as one of the sector’s “Top 50 Power and Influence Leaders” in the United States. Find her biography here.

“I have been privileged to work with so many outstanding philanthropic and nonprofit leaders statewide and nationally who believe, as I do, in elevating the value and increasing the impact of what our sector contributes to society,” said Lies.

“Valerie has garnered an unparalleled national reputation for her leadership in the philanthropic and nonprofit sector,” said James D. Parsons, Chair of Donors Forum’s Board of Directors and President of The Brinson Foundation in Chicago (pictured, left).

“She leaves an extraordinarily rich legacy of accomplishments, including the expansion of Donors Forum to serve the entire state of Illinois and the development of Illinois Nonprofit Principles and Best Practices, a set of governance and management standards that provide invaluable guidance to funders and nonprofits across the state. The quality of the guidelines is evidenced by the praise they have earned from government leaders and regulators,” said Parsons.

Parsons continued: “Valerie has also become known for her passionate commitment to bringing funders and nonprofits together to tackle issues of common concern – everything from how funders can best promote nonprofit effectiveness to ways in which collaborations can address pressing community issues. Surprisingly, concerted efforts to bring together funders and nonprofits to confront problems are rare. Donors Forum is committed to setting the pace in the sector in promoting these efforts.”

Over the past two years, Donors Forum has undertaken several organizational assessments that have resulted in new programs and services that support the critical missions of funders and nonprofits, particularly in the public policy arena. The Board of Directors is in the midst of an intense planning process that is building on those assessments with an eye toward ensuring that Donors Forum will be an even more dynamic force in Illinois and across the country.

“There is no doubt: we will miss Valerie greatly, but we are excited about her next chapter,” said Donald Cooke, incoming chair, effective July 1, 2013, of Donors Forum’s Board of Directors, and Senior Vice President for Philanthropy at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation (pictured, left).

“The new strategic plan will build on the innovative strategies and practices that began under Valerie,” said Cooke. “Because of her excellent leadership, we are extremely well positioned to implement the plan, which will increase the collective ability of philanthropy and nonprofits to improve lives and strengthen communities.

Cooke continued, "The Board will employ best practices for a careful and smooth executive transition. We will share information on the process to identify a successor soon, and details of the strategic plan later this year."


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