In this episode, we're sitting down with OCCF's new President and CEO, Trisha Finnegan, for a one on one to learn about her background and vision for the future of OCCF.
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Dan Martel 0:28
Hello, I'm Dan Martel and welcome back to Creating Impact Through Giving. Change is in the air throughout Oklahoma City, particularly within the nonprofit sector. We've had a change in leadership at many high-profile entities, such as Allied Arts, the Arts Council, Skyline Urban Ministry to name just a few. Well, another high-profile community leader, Nancy Anthony has also retired after 37 years of service with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Today, I have the honor of introducing you to the Community Foundation's new President and CEO, Trisha Finnegan. Trisha comes to Oklahoma City via Louisville, where she spent several years with the Community Foundation of Louisville, most recently as the senior vice president chief strategy officer. With that, I'd like to introduce and welcome Trisha Finnegan to Creating Impact Through Giving. Trisha, welcome and thanks for being with us today.
Trisha Finnegan 1:17
Well hello. It's an absolute pleasure, and this is my first time.
Dan Martel 1:21
We're glad you're here. Trisha, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has been a bright spot in the city for more than 50 years now, and the future of the Foundation is now even brighter that you're on board. Thanks for being here.
Trisha Finnegan 1:32
Well, thank you. Since we're on a podcast, you can't see that, that makes me smile really big, but for those of you, hopefully you can hear it in my voice. I am thrilled to be here. Thank you.
Dan Martel 1:41
Fantastic. Trisha, I want to just jump right into some of the questions. What was it about the Oklahoma City Community Foundation that attracted you to consider applying for the position in the first place?
Trisha Finnegan 1:52
Good question. Very good question. The answer may not be what you would expect. I received outreach from several folks. I worked with community foundation colleagues all across the country. The beautiful thing about community foundations is we are not in competition with one another. We support one another. That means a network of people who are doing similar things in many different places that are a resource for one another. I received outreach from several colleagues in the field. I have the chance to work with them and folks across the country of Canada. They said, you've got to take a look at this role.
So, what actually initially attracted me was trust. Because people I trust made a recommendation to me, and that matters. So, while I wasn't looking for this opportunity, I was working, doing great things where I was, because people I trusted said, you should take a look at this, I took a look. Then certainly once I took a look, the role itself, what the Trustees did to outline their hopes for the future and the opportunity to build on the legacy, well, then that was obviously...from there, it was very, very simple. The initial piece was actually several people saying, take a look. This sounds like you to me. That's what opened my eyes.
Dan Martel 3:08
And here you are today.
Trisha Finnegan 3:09
And here we are today.
Dan Martel 3:10
That's great. I want to jump in and talk a little bit about a community foundation. What does the Community Foundation do here in this city? We do get a lot of questions from people that truly don't know who we are, what we do. Let's talk a little bit about that. Tell us in your words, Trisha, what a community foundation does.
Trisha Finnegan 3:28
Well, first I'll say it is so common that people don't necessarily know or understand a community foundation. That is common to every community and every community foundation. The reason I think that is, Dan, is because community foundations are designed to really lift, invest and support the people in the place that they are tied to. In that way, a community foundation in Sacramento or Austin or Boston or a smaller community foundation, or a community foundation in a rural area is going to look different than another community foundation. I think some of that lack of awareness comes from, or understanding comes from the fact that we're all a little bit different, right? It's not one recipe. That I think contributes, but what is a community foundation?
A community foundation is an asset, it's a resource, it's an organization, it's a group of people that invest in a place and the people who live there. Quite simply, that is what a community foundation is and does. It brings together people from all across the community to contribute to that. It might look like support for education/scholarships. It might look like policy change. It might look like work on affordable housing or building a cultural sector. Again, it's responding to the dynamic needs of a community and bringing many, many people together to contribute to what a community needs. That to me is what a community foundation is and does.
Dan Martel 4:57
So, what do you think the most important thing that people in the community should know about the Community Foundation, particularly here in Oklahoma City?
Trisha Finnegan 5:04
Yeah. I think number one, we're here, we're here for you. We're here for everyone. We are committed to this place, which by the way, as I learn more and more, I have to tell you, I really love it here. There's so much to love about Oklahoma City, and this community is growing, but we are here and we're here to improve lives. We're here for the long haul. Something else that I think is really important, particularly about Oklahoma City Community Foundation and Oklahoma City Community Foundation right now is something that the Trustees...we are overseen by a group of individuals that are committed and connected to this community and they are our Trustees, but they set forth that they would like to see OCCF increase our impact, be innovative and really be committed and relevant to this community in new ways. That's something that's really important to know about us right now.
The second thing I would say is we are committed as a staff team and as a trustee team and a set of volunteers, we are committed to elevating our impact. You're going to see more of us. You're going to feel more of us. You're going to hear more from us. Those are the two things that I think would be really important to know about us right now. In another year, it might be something else, but that's, what's beautiful is we'll keep evolving.
Dan Martel 6:19
Absolutely. That is the beauty of that too. I agree with you. The Oklahoma City Community Foundation has thousands of donors. They've opened up funds and scholarships, and we've seen several established endowments. We've seen many different initiatives developed through the Foundation. How do we continue to attract that next generation of donors? Because if we think about it, the donors of what made it all possible to give back to the community, how do we attract that next generation?
Trisha Finnegan 6:44
I love this. I love talking about this. One of the things I alluded to already is meeting changing needs. Nothing is static. Everything is changing. And so, to attract people, we need to make sure that we are adjusting to meeting the changing needs. If the community has a need and we're not responding then that doesn't make us relevant. Again, being relevant, meeting changing needs, and one of the things that's really compelling and we have to make sure people know is we can do more together than apart. You can do more in working with a community foundation, than you can on your own. It's very, very simple, but that matters. That attracts people. We can certainly accept unique assets, real estate, stock, et cetera. There's a certain number of those things that make us really relevant. But another thing that makes us unique is that we can connect people to opportunities.
We are knowledgeable, we've got staff working all across the city. We've got, again, volunteers, Trustees, partners that we work with and in doing so we know where good things are happening in this community. Someone else who may be leading a business or leading a family or many other things that we're doing in our day to day lives, folks aren't spending their full work week knowing where there are good things happening in this community. In that way, OCCF is a connector to people. Dan, if I were to ask you, what do you care about? What impact do you want to make? Then if I listen to that, a community foundation can connect you to where you can create that change.
Dan Martel 8:19
Absolutely. That really leads me into the next question. I think that is a perfect segue. What can we tell younger people today about the importance of philanthropy? I look at young people today and I see a more giving spirit.
Trisha Finnegan 8:30
Well, I think you said something really important. You said you see a giving spirit. I don't know that the word philanthropy really matters, right? That's a word.
Dan Martel 8:38
Sure. It's a big word too.
Trisha Finnegan 8:39
It's that giving spirit. It's that sense of many cultures honor principles of collective work, unity, caring for others, community, sharing a harvest – these principles go back generations. To me the word philanthropy, sometimes language can be a barrier. What do I think we can do to talk to younger people about the importance of philanthropy? I actually think younger people are already really connected, so I'm more interested in listening, and I'm more interested in observing and seeing people act. I'm seeing people in their twenties, in their thirties, people in their teens, more active, more engaged, stronger advocates, more giving than any generation I've seen before. To me, it's a matter of listening and learning and watching and seeing some of the ways that they're already giving and figuring out how we can share the tools that we have. Because if we talk about philanthropy, it's another tool. To me, it's about listening, observing, working, meeting people where they are, but also sharing the tools that we have that people may not be as familiar with. To me, that's our obligation and responsibility.
Dan Martel 9:55
I think you're absolutely right. I love that too, especially when you said just a few minutes ago, how we can connect people to certain passions that they might be interested in. It would be terrific to start engaging a lot of these younger folks in the community too. I want to jump into, you've come from Louisville, Kentucky. I hope I pronounced that right. You know, a lot of people have a hard time with that word.
Trisha Finnegan 10:17
You did a great job.
Dan Martel 10:18
Trisha Finnegan 10:19
Dan Martel 10:20
You were at the Community Foundation of Louisville for several years. Are there similarities to the one here in OKC, and maybe what are some of the significant differences between the two?
Trisha Finnegan 10:30
Absolutely. There's certainly similarities. The first one that pops to mind is really the heart of the staff. You know, the people that do this work every day care very, very deeply. That is a huge similarity between OCCF and Community Foundation of Louisville. The second one that pops immediately to mind is our Trustees. We have a group of people who volunteer with us, who are connected, committed, knowledgeable, representing all different individuals and sectors of this community. Those are two very strong similarities.
Another one, which maybe isn't necessarily a positive, but it is a similarity is that people who work with us and know us often see our value. But as you alluded to earlier, there's so many people who don't know about us, who don't know what our work makes possible. Unfortunately, that's a similarity as well, which we have the opportunity to work on. As far as some difference, there are some differences. Certainly again, what comes to mind quickly is size. OCCF has been around longer, has more assets, more folks that we work with. It's a larger foundation, a larger footprint. That's one pretty straightforward difference.
Another difference is, and this is actually one of the main reasons that the Trustees selected me to come and join you in your work is the Community Foundation of Louisville was really engaged in our community. Very deep engagement, listening, community driven needs, looking at issues and opportunities, certainly looking at issues of justice and equity. These were priorities in Louisville. Looking at what communities are grappling with. The Community Foundation of Louisville was really forward in being in community, having our sleeves up and helping to drive and work through issues that were prominent in our community. That's a little bit different from the way that OCCF has operated.
The second thing I would say is the Community Foundation of Louisville was a really strong partner. You'll very often hear me talk about people doing more together than apart. I believe our communities deserve their very best resources and no one group of people, no one sector has enough resource to solve and to really advance our community's priorities. And so, one of the focuses in Community Foundation of Louisville was on partnership and how do we bring people together to do more? Those are a couple of things that I would say are opportunities.
Dan Martel 13:10
Absolutely. Okay. Recently, Oklahoma City was named the 20th largest city in America, which is a huge leap from where we were before. How does the Community Foundation take advantage of that as we continue to move forward as an organization?
Trisha Finnegan 13:24
You know, the 2010 to 2020 census for Oklahoma City is powerful. Folks haven't looked at the growth in that way. It is really fascinating. That's something that actually is a huge benefit. Being new to a community don't take for granted your understanding. You rely on data, you rely on conversations, you talk to people. Looking at it objectively, the growth has been tremendous. This community between 2010 and 2020. Again, those are my data points, just in the census but in speaking with people and watching the development and looking at the maps work, oh my goodness, this community and our investment in ourselves, I'm already flipping to the “our.” I'm not taking credit, but it does feel like home so I'm already saying “our.” I'm catching myself, but our investment in ourselves is unique. How do we, you said, take advantage of the growth? One is I'll call to attention that the growth is twofold. It's both economic and it's in population. Those are two different forms. You can have one without the other etc.
Dan Martel 14:25
Absolutely. That's right. You bet.
Trisha Finnegan 14:28
Those are two forms, but I will say that growth has been good for many. I think it's important to be honest, it has not been good for all or equally good for all.
Dan Martel 14:36
Trisha Finnegan 14:37
The second thing is growth is great, but we have to be mindful of if and how we sustain it, right? Because ups and downs can be difficult booms and busts. This community knows well, booms and bust they cause challenges. What I would say is let's be excited about our growth, both economic and population, and let's focus on how do we make that growth good for as many of us as possible? How do we help sustain it? That's exactly where the Community Foundation comes in. We are in service to this community. We take the long view. We are going nowhere. I will only be in this seat for so long. You may only be in your seat for so long, but the Foundation will be here.
How does a community foundation help? We are positioned to help because we have the long view. We have exposure as I mentioned, a few minutes ago. We have so much exposure to what's happening across the community. With that, we can then make sure that we're sharing that information, make sure that we're engaging people. Lastly, what I would say, and this excites me the most is we can inspire others to join us. If we know what's happening, if we know what the community needs are, if we're listening to our nonprofit partners, our civic partners, then we can share those opportunities with corporations, other foundations, individual donors, and we can really inspire people to join us. To me, that's what we can do as the, now 20th largest city.
Dan Martel 16:05
I think you're absolutely correct. It's interesting too, you mentioned the growth of the city from 2010 to 2020; even prior the city has been very fortunate to have leadership that has continued to push the city forward. I think that the Community Foundation, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation is really this bright light that I kind of look at that sits in the city that more and more people need to take advantage of. From what you've seen since you've been here, it's been a few weeks, only been a few weeks. Do you see the Community Foundation doing things differently now than perhaps they've done in the past looking forward?
Trisha Finnegan 16:43
We will. Of course we will. I have a business background and anyone who runs a business, anyone who runs a nonprofit, anyone who leads, you must continue to evolve. We all must. I absolutely see that we will continue to evolve. How? We'll see, we'll talk about that. When we talk about community foundations across the board, I would like to just make a mention, because sometimes I think we focus on what we are doing, but we don't necessarily know how that relates to what other community foundations might be doing, and I think it's important because it represents a big shift.
I'll just take a moment to say that generally speaking, community foundations, which are well over a hundred years old as an institution, they started by working with individual families, individuals perhaps that had wealth that they wanted to invest. That was really our focus for a very long time, as a field, not just at OCCF, but across the board. Over time Community Foundations realized because of the people that work with us because of our insights into what's happening, we can partner with people, we can partner with individuals and families, but we can do so much more. As a field, community foundations really have moved in that direction, and I see OCCF doing the same.
Dan Martel 18:08
Outstanding. If you could look into the future one year, five years, maybe even 10 years from now, what do you see the Community Foundation's role being in Oklahoma City?
Trisha Finnegan 18:18
Well, Dan, you mentioned this is being recorded nearly my first week. I think today's day seven. I think it's a little too soon for me to say what we'll do in one, five and 10 years, but I can tell you about my approach. I think OCCF should be meaningfully supporting this community, Oklahoma City and beyond, in reaching our aspirations. That statement, I will stand by. The how is yet to be determined and how will we determine that is really important to me. It's going to start with a word you've heard me say a few times, it's going to start with listening. Listening, seeking, exploring, learning, I believe in a principle that I call the highest and best use. Highest and best use of my time, your time, our staff. Highest and best use of our resource. Highest and best use of the resources that folks have entrusted to us.
Some folks still living, some folks passed on. And so, to know what the highest and best use of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, for me as a newcomer to say what we'll be doing in five to 10 years, my approach will be to build that and to build that through listening, seeking, learning, growing and seeking out our highest and best use to this community. That's my promise that we will take that approach. I also will promise that I'll come back to you and share the details directly with you one on one and for the airwaves. But for right now, I think what we should focus on committing to is meaningfully supporting this community in reaching our aspirations and in being really thoughtful about how we set out to do that.
Dan Martel 20:11
Trisha, I think you've done a great job wrapping that up. I do want one more question. Based on what you just said, what are the immediate plans? How soon is all this change going to happen?
Trisha Finnegan 20:20
Well, I'm glad you asked. There's a long history here. What I would love to draw credit to is the fact that I have the opportunity to lead this organization and build on a tremendous legacy. The staff, the Trustees, both current and previous we have had leadership from a tremendous leader in Nancy Anthony for 37 years. Nancy's legacy of leading, of charting new paths, of carrying a really small resource into a critical community asset, my immediate plans are to accept that torch and to really elevate and accelerate how we take the resource that we have and how we make it even more meaningful to this community. I've got to take what we have and I've got to make it better. Those are my immediate plans center there.
Dan Martel 21:15
Well, I think that is incredible of you to say. I know Nancy Anthony would appreciate those kind words as well. She, you're right. She was here for a long time and that is a big torch to carry. So good for you that exciting.
Trisha Finnegan 21:27
Absolutely. I feel it.
Dan Martel 21:29
You can feel it.
Trisha Finnegan 21:30
Dan Martel 21:30
I know you've been busy being introduced to people all over the city, and I don't know how you have time to even breathe for five minutes, because you've been in meeting after meeting, after meeting with various civic and political leaders throughout the city. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, I mean, I know you're very transparent. Your door is open. What's the best way for them to reach you?
Trisha Finnegan 21:52
I hope people do. I will say that people have been so welcoming and so warm and forthright. One of the earliest meetings I took, someone said, I want to tell you something that OCCF isn't doing, and that's just as helpful, right? So yes, the door is open. The phones are open. Now I feel like we're having a telethon. The phones are open. Our doors are open and an easy platform to keep up with us is our website; www.occf.org is a great way to engage. The pod, the cast here is a great way to engage, but also, every single staff person at the Foundation, our email is on our website. We are here for you. Whether it's popping an email to me or to a staff member, whether it's setting time for a meeting, whether it's making us aware of something you know that's happening in the community. Certainly the website is our front door and it gets us right to staff members, including myself. I welcome it. I look forward to it, and I have a lot of energy. I've been, even in my free time, Dan, I've been driving around to different parts of the community to learn and see how people live, what people are doing, how the schools are different, how the parks are different. I'm hungry, I'm eager, I'm excited to learn more and folks should feel very, very welcome.
Dan Martel 23:11
Well, thank you so much. I hope we can do this again, Trisha. Obviously, we want to let you get your feet a little deeper into the community and would love to have you back on to kind of get an assessment in a few months after you've been here for a while, but we really enjoyed having you on the podcast today. Thank you for being here.
Trisha Finnegan 23:28
It's a pleasure and you guys have heard it, Dan has committed to having me back. now he's got to do it.
Dan Martel 23:32
I'm going to do it. We're all going to do it. Thank you.
Trisha Finnegan 23:34
Dan Martel 23:36
Trisha, thanks again for being on the podcast today. We're all excited for your arrival, your vision and your future plans for the Community Foundation here in Oklahoma City. We appreciate you taking some time to visit with us today. We look forward to having you back on the program. Well, that wraps us up today. Glad you were with us. Thanks for getting together with this little one-on-one with the new President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, Trisha Finnegan.
Join us again. Next month, we're going to be talking to some professional advisors and the role that they play in the Community Foundation. It's important to have strong relationships with these professional advisors as they play a big part in helping their clients establish funds with the Foundation. It should be an enlightening discussion, and I'm sure you'll all want to catch our next podcast. I want to thank Trisha Finnegan, the new President and CEO with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation for being with us. We certainly look forward to having her back in the program to discuss future topics. Until then I'm Dan Martel. Thanks for listening to Creating Impact Through Giving and have a great week.