Guest Post: The Search for the Next Leader of Donors Forum Moves Forward; Your Input Invited

Friday, September 27, 2013

Editor's note: Valerie S. Lies, Donors Forum's President and CEO, announced earlier this year that she will retire as of June 30, 2014. She has led Donors Forum since 1987. Read more here. The Donors Forum Board of Directors is employing best practices for a thoughtful, careful, and smooth executive transition. 

The search for the next President and CEO of Donors Forum is underway. The Transition Committee is moving forward and a search firm has been selected. Here is an update on the process and an invitation to share your thoughts as we move forward.

Donors Forum Transition Committee and Search Firm

I'm honored to chair the Transition Committee and work with a stellar group of professionals. Committee members represent private, family, and corporate foundations as well as nonprofits, city government, and Donors Forum staff. The goal of the committee is to identify and bring on board a leader who can align Donors Forum with changing dynamics in the sector, provide leadership in the field, and generate awareness of social sector needs and activities in civic and policy arenas.

The Transition Committee met six times over the Summer and reviewed nine search firms. Proposals were requested from seven firms and four were invited back for interviews. We unanimously agreed to hire Alison Ranney at Russell Reynolds to conduct the search. Alison brings a strong network of connections and is backed up by a world-class search firm with a broad reach into the world of association professionals.

Committee members are Andreason Brown, Chief Financial Officer at Donors Forum; Chicago Commissioner Evelyn Diaz, Department of Family and Support Services; Ric Estrada, Director of Metropolitan Family Services; Deborah Gillespie, Vice President of Finance and Administration at The Joyce Foundation; Bruce Karmazin, Executive Director of The Lumpkin Family Foundation; Joshua Mintz, Vice President and General Counsel at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; James Parsons, President of The Brinson Foundation; Nicole Robinson, President of Mondelēz International Foundation; and Laura Zumdahl, Vice President of Nonprofit Services at Donors Forum.

Constituent Input

I've had the opportunity to talk with Donors Forum staff members, hear their thoughts, and share our progress to date. As the search develops, we're interested in what you think. Alison Ranney will be meeting with small groups of staff, board members, and nonprofit leaders in October. If you are interested in participating in a small group, please contact Kristen Jackson at


Searches have lots of moving parts and this one will be comprehensive. The Committee is anticipating the following timeline:

  • Meetings between Alison Ranney, Donors Forum staff, and nonprofit leaders will take place in the next few weeks.
  • A finalized position description will follow.
  • The selection process and interviews will take place over the following months with the goal of having finalist candidates in early Spring.
  • The Transition Committee is committed to providing the incoming President and CEO with a comprehensive onboarding that includes introductions to Donors Forum Members and Partners during the Summer and Fall of 2014.

It's an exciting time for Donors Forum and we look forward to your engagement.

~ Caren Yanis, Chair, Donors Forum Transition Committee; Vice Chair, Donors Forum Board of Directors; and President, Crown Family Philanthropies