The Pittsburgh Foundation

Foundation unveils new strategic plan

A blueprint for engaging donors and expanding resources to overcome regional challenges and achieve a thriving Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA, Jan. 31, 2023… The Board and staff of the Pittsburgh Foundation have adopted a new strategic plan, acting on lessons from emergency response to COVID-19 and data indicating far less progress than many have assumed in eliminating longstanding inequities that have held back many communities.

The Foundation has set a vision statement for its new work: To realize a vibrant, equitable and just Pittsburgh region that supports everyone – regardless of race, identity or circumstance – to thrive and fulfill their potential.

“The plan that will guide us through the next five years comes out of an unprecedented effort to bring together diverse people and ideas: our nonprofit leaders who accomplish so much with so little; our donors and business leaders who invest for a better future; our community leaders and elected officials who advocate for change; and our generous foundation community,” said Pittsburgh Foundation President Lisa Schroeder today in announcing the plan.

“We all know that an inequitable Pittsburgh is a Pittsburgh unable to thrive,” Schroeder said, adding that the new plan requires “all hands on deck to move beyond helping people merely stay in place. We are reaching out across communities to understand what residents need to thrive over the long term.”

Board Chair John R. “Jack” McGinley, who led the yearlong strategy development, said the new plan recommits the Foundation to dedicated stewardship of its donors’ charitable giving. “The lifeblood of every community foundation is its donors, and our plan continues our 78-year partnership so that through our collective efforts, we can have an outsized impact on the most pressing needs,” McGinley said. “To increase the power of their personal philanthropy, we will continue to support and foster our donors’ philanthropic goals.”

In the past five years alone, the Foundation’s donors and its holders of designated, scholarship and agency funds, have given a total of $173 million to a wide range of causes across the region.

“Our daily experiences enable us to identify areas of compelling community need,” McGinley said. “That experience informs our formulation of this strategic plan.”

The plan’s overarching call to action is to achieve racial justice – to build a society in which race is no longer a determinant of who thrives and who gets held back.

To jump-start that work, the Foundation will invest $50 million of its unrestricted grant-making pool over the next five years to advance racial equity and racial justice. An example of that commitment is that, by 2027, at least 50% of unrestricted grants will benefit organizations led by and serving Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

To add to that investment, the Foundation’s staff will invest time and other non-monetary resources in its work to end inequities. The Foundation has already begun some of the work, Schroeder said, in reaction to recent research showing the need for urgency.

An example is the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which reported in September that, while 12.8% of the nation – a total of 41.4 million people – live below the poverty line, Pittsburgh had a much higher rate across the board – 20.2%. More than a third of Pittsburgh’s Black and Latino residents, and more than one-in-four Asian residents lived below the poverty line last year.

Other surveys reported that the racial and ethnic well-being gap widened during the pandemic, burdening Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and immigrant communities and further highlighting historic disparities that have bolted the door to opportunities for generations of families.

McGinley cited Pittsburgh’s national reputation for moving past individual self-interest to work collectively to achieve economic and cultural renaissances. “We have a lot to be proud of, but we know that the work is far from done and that the benefits of our success have not been evenly enjoyed,” he said.

Three areas of concentration are pillars of the plan: Promote Philanthropy, Support Community and Catalyze Partnerships. Under each, there will be significant activities to address racial and economic inequities as well as new ways to engage donors in giving.

To better understand how to make significant progress, the Foundation last summer launched Community Conversations, a project involving more than 300 nonprofit and community leaders across Allegheny County. Participants compared notes about shared strengths and assets and put into words their dreams for the future.

The Foundation will build on these new relationships as well as those established across the region over nearly eight decades to identify community resources and identify gaps; to nurture cross-sector partnerships and investments; and to advocate for policy change to transform systems. To support implementation of the plan, the Foundation has:

  • Increased the diversity of highly qualified BIPOC-, women-, disabled- or veteran-owned management firms advising on the Foundation’s primary investment portfolio from 9% in 2021 to 17% last year. Nationally, only 1.4% of invested assets are managed by firms whose owners meet one or more of the diversity categories.
  • Connected nonprofits to a variety of non-monetary sources of support and capacity building through a “More-Than-Money” program.
  • Created new staff teams devoted to public health, policy and community impact and increased internal resources for research and data analysis to better understand disparities and develop solutions.
  • Boosted public convenings on significant community issues.
  • Built infrastructure to support public fundraising campaigns, such as the Emergency Action Fund for COVID-19 relief and the Racial Justice Fund, leading to robust participation.
  • Provided opportunities for donors who support Foundation initiatives to partner with Program staff in grantmaking to provide more resources to address inequities.

In addition to enhancing the engagement with long-term donors and inviting new donors to the table, the Foundation will focus unrestricted grantmaking on five community issue areas: Basic Needs, Equity and Social Justice, Environmental Action, Economic Mobility and Arts and Culture.

McGinley said navigating the new course will not be easy, “but it is the right course for us to take at this time in the Foundation’s history. It is precisely during a period when our disparities are glaring and well documented that a community foundation must demonstrate the value of building community for the benefit of all of us.”

Schroeder said that even with increased internal capacity, the commitment of additional resources and the sharper focus on equity, the Foundation can only succeed by engaging the public and a wide range of partners.

“We believe that our greatest assets are our funding ability and our convening ability – connecting people to critically important causes, providing facts and research and advocating for those who have been left behind. Under this plan, we will be doing all of these with greater humility and strength of purpose than ever before – and we can’t wait to get started.”