The Kathy Goldfarb-Findling Leadership Award

“The Kathy” is short for the Kathy Goldfarb-Findling Leadership Award, jointly sponsored by the Gifford Foundation and the Allyn Family Foundation. It is named for the Gifford Foundation’s late executive director who also served as the Allyn Family Foundation’s director of strategic services. It is awarded periodically to a Central New York (Onondaga, Oswego, Madison and Cayuga counties) not-for-profit professional who best exemplifies Ms. Goldfarb-Findling’s approach to leadership: 

To be nimble and creative;
To encourage lifelong learning;
To embrace leaps of faith and not fear failure;
To work “with,” not do “for”;
To fully engage in collaborative approaches and;
to at all times believe passionately in the power of change and personal growth.

In addition to recognizing and publicly honoring vital nonprofit leaders who are truly unique, a monetary award will be available for the personal use of the recipient. The only restriction is that the honoree may not re-direct the cash to his or her organization.

To learn more about Ms. Kathy Goldfarb-Findling, please view this short video.

Previous winners of “The Kathy” are Michael Melara of Catholic Charities, Mary Ellen Clausen of Ophelia’s Place, Mary Beth Frey of the Samaritan Center, Randi Bregman of Vera House, Kerry Quaglia of Home HeadQuarters, Sharon Owens of Southwest Community Center and the City of Syracuse, Melissa Spicer of Clear Path for Veterans and Sally Fisher Curran of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County.

Several of these honorees gathered to talk about Kathy, the award’s effect, and leadership in general. >>learn more.

The selection criteria

We believe that “The Kathy” award is unique in that it celebrates leadership qualities that go beyond degrees, awards, connections and accomplishments of either a personal or professional nature. It is the quality of the personal interactions, and the openness to change and creative progress, that is most important to the selection committee.

To be nimble and creative can mean…

Honestly assessing a situation, project or direction while it is ongoing; being willing to make adjustments where needed; admitting when mistakes might be made and fixing those mistakes; making decisions and acting upon them in a timely manner; finding unusual ways to approach problems; having a loving sense of humor about situations and people.

To encourage lifelong learning can mean…

Curiosity about not only the immediate needs or concerns of one’s field of work, but also of the community, nation and world; wide range of interests; never being afraid to say “I don’t know;” helping others to explore new ways of thinking and being willing to accept differing viewpoints.

To embrace leaps of faith and not fear failure can mean…

Experimenting and accepting the results, even if unexpected; taking risks; sharing how things work out in an honest fashion; encouraging others with a “why not give it a try” attitude; pushing self and others to stretch and move outside their comfort zone if need be.

To work “with” not do “for” can mean…

Realizing that the smartest people in the room are those most immediately affected by a situation; taking no actions or making no recommendations about a group without that group being a part of decisions; stepping alongside when needed but knowing when to step away; genuinely, authentically and intentionally listening and acting upon what one hears; to work from the bottom up rather than the top down.

To fully engage in collaborative approaches can mean…

Giving up something when necessary; keeping one’s promises; being a true, honest and respectful partner; changing and adapting; knowing when to lead and when to be led; being imaginative about who or why one collaborates; knowing that trust takes time; seeing the big picture; understanding that collaborative work is hard, lengthy but worthwhile.

To at all times believe passionately in the power of change and personal growth can mean…

Encouraging opportunities for learning and growth amongst colleagues and employees and actively acting upon these opportunities; having a sense of optimism about people; knowing where one came from and envisioning where one is going; not being afraid to honestly give counsel in a respectful way; believing that taking care of one’s personal needs is the most powerful way to insure professional success.

The selection process

Nominations are reviewed by a selection committee comprised of Gifford and Allyn Family Foundation representatives, previous awardees and family members. Nominees do not need to be CEOs or executive directors – the leadership qualities described above are of paramount importance.

Some images from the 2016 Kathy celebration, held November 3, 2016 in the Persian Terrace at the Hotel Syracuse.


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