Pushing the Forbes Funds ForwardFred Brown takes the helm at The Forbes Funds.
WE KNOW PITTSBURGH IS CHANGING, and as a result, the services nonprofits provide also must change,” says Fred Brown, the recently appointed president and CEO of The Forbes Funds, a supporting organization and capacity-building affiliate of The Pittsburgh Foundation. In February, Brown began a 100-day listening tour to bring nonprofit and community leaders together.
The goal: to encourage collaboration, better share and use data, and make sure that inclusion and equity complement the rise of regional innovation.
With more than 30 years of experience in the nonprofit human services sector, Brown has a thorough understanding of what it takes to engage successfully with the community. Before joining The Forbes Funds, Brown was president and CEO of Homewood Children’s Village in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood, where he grew up. The Village serves children and families through mentorship, career and college planning, and project-based learning.
There, Brown was responsible for organizational initiatives that focused on improving the nonprofit’s effectiveness. During his tenure, both the staff and the budget doubled, and the number of active community partner organizations increased from 75 to 200.
"The results of our work are better because of a shared vision. We’re all moving forward in disparate ways to solve common issues."
--FRED BROWN, The Forbes Funds
Brown attended Pittsburgh Public Schools before receiving degrees from both Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh. His interests in education, mentorship and sustainability stem from his experiences with the highs and lows of living in Pittsburgh, where he sees socioeconomic and racial disparities as significant concerns.
However, Brown is optimistic about the future of the city and the nonprofits that serve it. He pays close attention to regional data to understand community members’ most pressing needs. One of his areas of interest is supporting the development of a more equitable economy for all. With thousands of skill-based jobs projected to be vacant within the next 10 years, Brown believes that nonprofits need more “courageous conversations” about diversity and inclusion in the workforce. In addition, partners with The Forbes Funds are collaborating to encourage nonprofits to work more efficiently. “The results of our work are better because of a shared vision,” he says. “We’re all moving forward in disparate ways to solve common issues.”
The listening tour has encouraged The Forbes Funds to make more connections that bridge the gap between nonprofit leaders and those doing work directly with the community. He believes that there is often a disconnect that affects the success of nonprofits when compromise isn’t prioritized.
Brown also understands that Pittsburgh is now a major hub for new and innovative STEM careers, which is a shift from the region’s industrial past. This change affects how all sectors of the nonprofit community will need to come together to help those they serve to find and maintain stability in the rapidly changing economy. “The goal should be improving the livelihood of all Pittsburgh residents,” Brown says. “STEM careers offer that opportunity. I have a rich understanding of the cultural nuances in the city and intimate experience with the things that work well here and the ones that don’t.”
In addition to the listening tour, Brown is examining The Forbes Funds’ grant-making processes over the last 10 years to analyze effectiveness over time. By determining the needs of the nonprofits The Forbes Funds serves, Brown can discern which organizations require the most assistance, not only through funding but also through learning forums and workshops.
Brown hopes these efforts will strengthen the impact of The Forbes Funds on regional capacity building. But he says he knows this will only be possible through the willingness of nonprofit and community leaders to stay engaged in service of the greater good. “We have to practice what we preach.”
Original story appeared in Forum Quarterly - Fall 2018