A New Chapter for The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation

The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation has undergone a generational change in leadership with the retirement of Margaret C. Ayers after thirty-eight years of service and the arrival last year of Phil Li, our new president.   The foundation’s transition has provided a welcome interlude for the Board. We have reflected on our programs and, in doing so, have thought about the nature of leadership in a foundation and, more broadly, leadership within the nonprofit and governmental sectors, especially in New York City. 

Emerging from our review, which included wide-ranging conversations with nonprofit organizations, was a concern about cultivating the next generation of leadership in our city. Simply put, we want to play a role in assuring that nonprofit organizations and public agencies will have leaders who can help build a vibrant New York—a city that is strong, healthy, livable, equitable, and just.

How will we do it?  By investing in people—in the talents and capacities of able leaders from a wide range of sectors.  It is individuals who bring about and lead change, and yet a scant one percent of philanthropic dollars are currently earmarked for human capital investments.  We know that isn’t nearly enough.

We want to shift the paradigm,  to prioritize leadership development as a tool to bring about positive change in New York City.  We have concluded that a foundation of our size can have the greatest impact by investing in people, enhancing their leadership abilities so they can better guide their organizations and collaborate with partners to make a better, stronger New York.

We will look forward to sharing more on how we plan to go about this work:  supporting organizations that run leadership development programs on a wide array of issues, funding groups that are making the case for increased talent investment, and backing research to look at how individuals and networks can bring about social change.

In asking Phil Li to serve as president, the Board knew that we were choosing someone who would bring a style of leadership to our Foundation that is consultative and collaborative, always seeking to learn from others and committed to sharing that knowledge widely. Phil’s extensive background in leadership development and philanthropic management will serve our mission extremely well. The program that he has already begun to shape is evidence of his experience and thoughtfulness.  The Board is excited and energized to have Phil Li at the helm.

Part of our next chapter is this new blog. This will be a hub for our thoughts and those of our colleagues and grantee partners— updates on foundation programs and news, and our analysis of and reflections on trends and developments in the fields of leadership development and philanthropy.

Welcome to this new chapter in the history of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. Stay tuned for the chapters to come.

James Allen Smith