New leader takes helm at community foundation

Selection ramps up effort to increase donors and impact

            GREENSBURG, Pa., June 3, 2015 – Phil A. Koch, whose five-year tenure leading a national youth empowerment organization has resulted in life-development opportunities for some 50,000 youth across the country, has been appointed the next executive director of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, an affiliate of The Pittsburgh Foundation. 

In announcing the appointment today after a three-month search process that included   Westmoreland’s Board members, Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King described Koch as a “dynamic leader who we believe is the right person at the right time to drive the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County to continue its role as primary change agent for improving the quality of life for all residents.”

King said that Koch’s strong connection to southwestern Pennsylvania – the MGR Youth Empowerment organization he headed is headquartered in Pittsburgh, and he had a three-year stint as a teacher in the Pittsburgh Public School system – will serve him well. “From the outset, we were so impressed with Phil’s knowledge of Westmoreland County and the nonprofit world in southwestern Pennsylvania. He did a tremendous amount of research in preparing for our discussions, and while we covered some of the challenges he will face, he has identified many opportunities to grow the foundation and do more for the people of Westmoreland County.”

Koch, 38, left his teaching career in 2005 to join MGR as program director in its Pittsburgh office. The organization has other programs and offices in Charlotte, Chicago, Las Vegas and Minneapolis. In taking over as executive director, Koch had significant success in development, implementation and evaluation of national programs. The organization’s focus is on empowering youth through the arts, environment and health. He also was successful in growing and diversifying the organization’s funding base from $500,000 when he took charge, to $1.2 million this year.

Koch will be tasked to continue to lead in similar areas at the Community Foundation: recruit more Westmoreland County residents to start funds at the foundation, increase the effectiveness of grants from existing funds, and increase the foundation’s general advocacy for the local nonprofit community. “We’re looking forward to Phil's ideas and strategies in all these areas,” said Regis Synan, board chair of the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.

“The expectation of the board is that Westmoreland County residents and those in the nonprofit community will respond very well to Phil and his ideas. He brings a strong set of skills and great enthusiasm to the leadership role, and he’ll be working closely with The Pittsburgh Foundation staff to maximize the benefits coming to Westmoreland from our relationship.” 

Koch said he is relishing the opportunity to lead a community foundation into its next stage of development. “What attracted me to this position is that there is such huge potential to increase positive impact in Westmoreland County, especially with the exceptional resources at our disposal through the merger with The Pittsburgh Foundation five years ago.”

His discussions with the Community Foundation’s board members and Westmoreland County residents have, Koch said, cemented his impression that residents care deeply about their communities and their identity within Westmoreland County. “The foundation has shaped that culture and it has done amazing work in the last 20 years. What is expected of me is to continue to deliver on its mission with enthusiasm, and innovative and creative thinking.”

King cited the contributions of outgoing Executive Director James Bendel as providing a solid launching pad for Koch. Bendel is leaving to return to his previous career on the Institutional Advancement staff at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. “Jim is one of the pioneers who created the expectation that the Community Foundation be the charitable leader and the civic leader for the residents of Westmoreland County,” he said. Vincent Quatrini Jr., one of the founders of CFWC and a member of The Pittsburgh Foundation Board, also highlighted Bendel’s contributions. "I still remember the breakfast meeting, in 1993 when Jim and I realized Westmoreland County was a natural home for a community foundation. And Jim has been an important part of the journey, right up to today."   

In 2010, The Community Foundation of Westmoreland merged with The Pittsburgh Foundation to take advantage of the extensive administrative, operational and marketing resources of the larger philanthropy. Benefits included a lowering of administrative fees for donor funds, access to more sophisticated investment strategies, and the Day of Giving platform.

Koch is a member of many nonprofit boards and advisory groups, including the Clinton Global Initiative, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh and the National Veterans Art Museum. He and his wife, Deanna are the parents of three sons, and live in Ingram. He begins work at the foundation Monday.