The Pittsburgh Foundation

Leading and Learning: Michelle McMurray named ABFE Fellow

Above: Michelle McMurray is a Senior Program Officer for Health and Human Services at The Pittsburgh Foundation.

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By Christian Pelusi
Christian Pelusi is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh.

The Association of Black Foundation Executives has named The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Senior Program Officer for Health and Human Services, Michelle McMurray, to its Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program. Her yearlong appointment began in September. The Fellowship Program pairs talented leaders with an executive coach to build and fine-tune skills that will lead to philanthropy in African American communities that is more effective and sustainable. The Fellowship started with a weeklong leadership summit in Oakland, Calif., and will end following the completion of an innovative community-based research project or volunteer work focused on becoming better change agents within their institutions.

That mission aligns directly with McMurray’s personal mission since arriving at the Foundation two and a half years ago.

“I consider it to be a call to action for myself, personally, which is why I’m so grateful for this opportunity. It creates space for me to think about what actions I might take individually, but also in my Foundation work, to have a more positive impact on communities that have not seen investment for a very long time.”

That investment includes providing access to affordable housing, leveraging the strengths of church congregations, nonprofit organizations and civic groups in communities, and supporting neighborhood leaders who want to make a difference. These are tenets of the Foundation’s 100 Percent Pittsburgh organizing principle, and the Small and Mighty grants program developed from it that seeks to meet the needs of smaller grass-roots organizations, which McMurray plays a vital role in supporting.

“Michelle brings an extraordinary intellect and deep compassion to her work [helping] organizations that seek to meet the basic needs of those who experience the effects of poverty in their lives,” says Senior Vice President for Program and Policy Jeanne Pearlman. “She is committed to the Foundation’s efforts to address institutional racism and to engage young people in organizing for systemic changes in those systems that disproportionately impact people of color.”

Validating that “committed” assessment, McMurray says she asks herself each day “What can I do today that will advance opportunities for individuals who are least connected? How do I use my position, my privilege and my passion to advance change? I am honored to work in a place that provides me with space and an opportunity to do that.”

Original story appeared in Forum Quarterly - Winter 2016