The POISE Foundation was honored in late April with the Institutional Award for Philanthropic Leadership by the national funders’ network Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE). Mark Lewis, President and CEO of POISE Foundation and currently Treasurer of GWP, accepted the award on its behalf.
Karris Jackson, POISE Foundation’s Vice President of Programs, and Aerion Abney, its program officer, also served as panelists at the ABFE conference, describing the foundation’s work on strengthening Black families. The panel focused on the Black family as an untapped resource in philanthropy. It used the POISE Foundation’s “Strengthening Black Families” grantmaking strategy as a case example and assisted other conference participants to examine their grantmaking portfolios and approaches using a family-centered approach.
Established in 1980 as the first public foundation in Pennsylvania organized and managed by African Americans, POISE Foundation works to develop and enhance the participation of Black philanthropists in the economic and social development of the Black community. Founder Bernard H. Jones, Sr., envisioned an empowered community, able to take care of itself, and for 35 years, the foundation has been supporting programs that add to the quality of life of Black Pittsburgh and its surrounding regions.
POISE Foundation employs collective giving to enable donors to realize their philanthropic goals. Donors may give to the Foundation’s general unrestricted endowment, where funds are pooled to make a greater impact on the Pittsburgh region. Donors may also start their own individual endowment funds to support their specific charitable interests and organizations. As of December 2014, the Foundation manages more than 150 funds with a balance of over $6.5 million.
Collective giving also supports the Foundation’s leadership, advocacy and grantmaking efforts. While the Foundation typically does not provide direct-service programs, it does strive to be a catalyst for change and growth in the black community. For example, POISE partnered to launch The Sankofa Fund of Southwest PA, a giving circle of African-American philanthropists, as well as The African- American Funders Group (AAFG). POISE also provides fiscal sponsorship services to projects and programs that are in line with its mission.
The Foundation’s grants are typically small, yet over its grantmaking history POISE has impacted the greater Pittsburgh region and beyond with more than $9 million in direct financial support to organizations assisting our most underserved populations. Beginning in fall 2013, the Foundation implemented its new grantmaking strategy, which directed its unrestricted endowed funds to programs and services that aim to strengthen Black families.