Broadening Perspectives:

Beyond the Money

Every year there are dozens of books that are written about change. Perhaps one of the most famous of these books is Who Moved My Cheese written by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth H. Blanchard. This book, focused on the different stages of change, shares stories about change and the reactions that people have in both the workplace and personal lives.  The Gifford Foundation could probably write our own book about change: not only do we have the privilege of sitting with organizations in our community as they navigate change, we’ve built entire programs like ADVANS, POWER and Nourishing Tomorrow’s Leaders that encourage change on both a personal and organizational level. This year we’ve had the opportunity to practice what we preach and go through our own organizational change.

Sheena Solomon is the Executive Director of the Gifford Foundation.

For those who don’t know me already, please let me introduce myself. My name is Sheena Solomon and I was named the Executive Director of the Gifford Foundation in January 2019.  Although I am not new to the Foundation, I am new to this role.  Over the past 12 years that I’ve been at Gifford, I’ve had the honor of implementing new programs, engaging with the community, and learning from other philanthropic leaders.  I’ve seen staff come and go, programs begin and end, experienced leadership changes, and more. With that said, I feel confident in saying that right now the Foundation is experiencing the most internal change in my tenure.

So, what’s new at Gifford? We are now a team of four, with Sheria Walker, the newest of our team members, having joined us in May. Lindsay McClung and Megan Wagner-Flynn have both been promoted into new roles with new job descriptions. We’ve all moved our individual offices within our existing space. We’ve painted the walls of the Foundation, purchased new furniture, redesigned our business cards and more. Today we are delighted to release our new website and relaunch our quarterly newsletter. Through all of this change, the Foundation’s welcoming culture and dedication to the community remains the same. 

Many non-profits know the Foundation for our community involvement as well as our capacity building work.  In order to build capacity as an organization it is important to go through phases of change.  As the community changes, the environment changes and people change.  With that in mind, the Foundation is excited to explore ways we can do our jobs better and continue to increase the quality of life for everyone in Central New York.  The Gifford Foundation brings more to the table than money.  We bring talent, passion, skills, experience and the ability to be lifelong learners.  We view change as a positive thing.  We see our own internal change as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to explore, and an opportunity to continue to develop and strengthen new partnerships locally and nationally.

As the new Executive Director of the Gifford Foundation I am very excited to continue the mission of building the capacity of individuals and organizations within the Central New York area.  As a resident of the City of Syracuse I am dedicated to learning new ways to invest in communities, individuals and organizations.  I use a community based decision-making system where people in the community’s best interests should be first.  I view things through an equity, diversity and inclusion lens: key in this lens is the idea that equal does not mean equitable.  That being said, a good leader is unable to lead alone.  The Gifford Foundation operates as a team and without the team we would not be able to complement and challenge each other.  This is why change and diverse viewpoints are embraced at the Foundation; we believe that without continuous change and self-evaluation we would be not be able to make impactful grants and connections.

We all know that life is full of changes, but what matters is how you handle the change.  Gifford has embraced our own change and continues to move forward as a strong organization in this community.  We are not perfect, but we promise to do our best and learn from those around us. We look forward to continuing to be at tables, initiate convenings and investing in this community our team calls home.

Sheena Solomon, Executive Director