This month on Creating Impact Through Giving, we meet back up with Trisha Finnegan, President & CEO of OCCF, as she takes us through her journey in the first several months of her time at the Foundation and in the community.
Listen in as she discusses her vision for the Foundation, her meetings with community leaders and more!
Visit occf.org to learn more!
Intro – Dan 0:03
You're listening to Creating Impact Through Giving, a podcast brought to you by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, providing you with the stories, techniques and tools around impactful giving. On this show, we'll talk to donors, professional advisors, nonprofit leaders and our own team of experts to identify charitable strategies that have resulted in some of our most impactful gifts.
Hello, I'm Dan Martel and welcome back to Creating Impact Through Giving. We are very excited to have back with us Trisha Finnegan, the president and CEO of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. You met Trisha several months ago when we introduced her as the new head of the foundation, when she moved here from Louisville, Kentucky.
Trisha has been on board for about seven months now, and we thought it would be a good idea to visit with her at this halfway mark to see what kind of things she has discovered about Oklahoma City, the foundation itself, and, more importantly, the needs of our community. So, Trisha, we are delighted to have you back and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today.
Thanks for having me.
So, as I mentioned, Trisha, you've been in your current position here for several months now and you've been able to meet with so, many people across the community and our state. You know, I thought it would be a great idea to take some time today and kind of hear about some of the things that you've observed since you've been here.
And, I'm just going to jump right in, if that's okay. And, you know, you've been here, you've been putting down some roots, which is really exciting. What was your biggest aha moment about Oklahoma City?
Ooh, aha moment. It's always tough whenever you say the biggest, right? I want to negotiate with you
and talk about the top. But I have top two. What I would say is pride of place is so, clear.
You meet folks; doesn’t matter if you're in line or at a restaurant or at a meeting. The pride of place – people that live here love living here.
I happened to be grabbing a coffee at a meeting this morning, was introduced to someone – again, people very welcoming, always quick to make an introduction – and the gentleman that was speaking said, “there's nowhere in the world I'd rather live.” Unprompted. You know, so, pride of place, I see that thread just popping up over and over and over.
So, that's come through to me. Not a surprise. It is what I experienced early on, but I've continued to see it through and through. And then secondarily, what I would say is there's a tremendous amount of collaboration going on. You know, I'm running into folks. I'm seeing a lot of people partnering. I'm seeing a lot of people come to the table for discussions.
And so, for me, that sense of connectivity and collaboration is something that I've seen, I've been really impressed by. And I think there's always space to lean into further, but I'm really impressed by what I'm seeing so, far.
Well, that's exciting. Great to know. So, if you're listening to the program right now, you know, you can stand up and be proud of who you are. Absolutely. I agree with you, Trisha. That's exciting.
So, since you've been here in Oklahoma City, you've met with all kinds of people across our state, business leaders, government officials, decision makers from all different backgrounds and industry.
What are you hearing from them about the role that the foundation plays in the community?
Most often it's a personal experience, is what people start with, Dan. You know, much like all of us, it happens to be a personal experience. I had a meeting just earlier this week where someone said, “This is Trisha Finnegan. She's with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.” The person immediately “the foundation helped us when we were in early days in building an effort at our nonprofit.” Fantastic.
So, often it's a personal experience that someone has had.
Secondarily, I would say the most common thing I hear is that people say, “I've had a great experience and I want to see more. I want to see more from the foundation. I want to see you guys in more places or doing more things.”
You know, I tend to be really open and invite feedback from folks when I meet them, and people are quick to say, “Hey, I've had a great experience. Can you do more?” So, it's usually driven by a personal experience is the first and most common.
And the second thing is that sense of “you guys do great things. Could you add this in? Could you come to this place? Could you do more?”
That is a great segue, Trisha, into my next question. As you know, the Foundation, I think, has become such a viable part of our community. And as you've been traveling around, in your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges that are facing our community today?
Well, you know, I tend to be a pretty positive person. So, I also like to look at the, you know, things that are opportunities. I like to look at things that are really positive about the community. But the truth is, Dan, we do have some challenges. And, you know, we all know that. If we're driving to the community or reading the paper or watching the news, and I think it's important that we discuss them openly.
So, despite being a real positive person, I think it's fair to admit that we have some opportunities to take a look at.
So, I would say the opportunities that are really central right now facing Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas, it's very easy to start with affordable housing. So, all the way from supporting individuals who are experiencing a lack of housing or individuals who are currently unhoused up to first time homebuyers to maintaining people who've been in homes for ten and 20 and 30 years, whose neighborhoods may be changing and they may have increases in expenses or limited resources at retirement age to make home repairs. So, when I talk about affordable housing, I'm talking about it from the full spectrum.
And as you see, the growth in Oklahoma City, understanding that quality, affordable housing be available is no surprise, right? You've got elderly individuals, you've got older adults, you've got young families, you've got folks who are coming in and affordable housing is important.
Secondary thing that I hear and see a lot is opportunities for workforce. Quality workforce, talented workforce, skilled workforce, living wage jobs.
We've got to have the right ability for employers to bring talent in.
And so, to have that workforce that is ready and able then to have quality jobs that pay people well so, that they can live good lives. So, sense of, you know, workforce development is key.
The third, I would say, and these are not in any particular order, but access to health care, including mental health care.
So, we know that that's not equal across the community. We know that in different places, in different parts of the state, even, you know, more rural communities and even across Oklahoma City, the ability to get access to health care, transportation, the ability to see a provider and the ability to get quality help, whether that's for physical health or mental health, is something that we continue to need. And in fact, that continues to grow in our community. A lot of great data out there on that.
The last thing I would say is quality education. People that are parents, people that have had students in the school system, you know, they all know this firsthand. I am not a parent, and so, I don't have a child in the school system. But I've spent a lot of time with folks, and spent a lot of time looking at education from early childhood through post-secondary. And so, quality access to quality education for as many of our young people as possible is really central. And if you think about it, these four things from affordable housing all the way through quality education, they relate to quality of life, but they're also all tied to economic impact.
And so, in that way, these four issues… Let's say for me personally, I'm not currently a homeowner. I don't currently have anyone in the school system. But these issues relate to every single Oklahoman. Every single Oklahoma City resident, because they all tie to our economy and our ability for people to have a quality life. And so, whether you see yourselves in these issues or not, they're actually relevant to every one of us.
Well, I think you've cited four incredibly important issues, Trisha, and you're absolutely right. As Oklahoma City continues to grow, I think it's one of the fastest growing cities right now in the country. A lot of people are coming here. And you're right, the lack of workforce is going to be crucial. Education, crucial. Lack of health care – you are absolutely right.
So, on what you just said, what are some of the things that the community foundation can do to help address some of these challenges today?
That's why we're here, right? That's a perfect question. That's exactly why we're here, Dan.
That’s right. That’s it… Alright, good.
So, I think two things. First of which is, one, that maybe some people look to us for and some maybe not yet, but we have the ability to stay connected. We have, you know, nearly 50 people on staff. We're connected to civic leaders, business leaders, were connected to nonprofits. And we're doing site visits, we're extending, reviewing grant reports all of the time. So, we're really connected to what's happening. That ability to draw that information and share it with others in ways that is accessible and meaningful.
You know, rest of the folks are going about leading their day to day lives. They're running businesses and leading families and doing the things that they're doing. So, the community foundation can be there to really raise awareness and provide that access and information that we have the beautiful purview to be able to see. We can help other people understand, because – not that, you know, they couldn't understand on their own, but just simply having the time.
The second is one that I think many people probably don't know about, but we have certain funds that are open; we call them iFunds. But for example, we have an iFund for access to health care. And we also have an iFund for opportunities for children. What that means is with a credit card in hand or a check that you want to drop in the mail, $10 or $10,000, you can support the most promising opportunities to make a difference in those areas.
So, you've got opportunities for children, which means you've got out of school time, you've got summer camps, you've got learning opportunities, you've got some great things there.
Access to health care, you have some great opportunities to support people that are not having access to health care now. Those are two funds that we have. However, you know, we don't have funds for some of the other areas that I mentioned.
So, I think it's a question to ourselves to say if folks want to make a difference and they want to make a difference in Oklahoma City, but they don't want to spend the time or go through and do one by one by one review of every nonprofit and every program and every time that there's a leadership change.
If they want to come in and join together with others and they want to say, “Look, I want to join together and add my hundred dollars” or “add my thousand dollars”. Are we giving them opportunities to make a difference in areas that we see as need? And I would say, you know, maybe that's something that we should consider. I think what we have is great, but maybe we need to do a little bit more.
Absolutely. You know, I didn't realize this, but there are over 900 community foundations in the country. I mean, a lot of people don't know about that. Why is it important for people to know about the community foundation in their respective communities?
Because each one is unique. Each one shares one thing in common that they are there for the place that they are located and the people who share it. And that's exactly what the Oklahoma City Community Foundation is. We are here for the entire region and in fact, have programs across the state, as you know, Dan. But we're here to support Oklahoma and Oklahoma City.
And if someone lives in Tampa, Florida, or Baltimore, Maryland, or anywhere else, they likely have a community foundation in their community that they can work with to invest in what's around them. When you look out your window and you see the trees and the roads and the schools and the workplaces and everything else, community foundations are here for places and the people who share them. And so, the reason why we have so, many is because there are so, many places. There are about 1800 around the globe. But you're right, about 900 in the United States. And every single one is based on the place they serve. And I think that's what makes us really special.
You know, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation has been around for more than 50 years. And what really makes this community foundation stand out from some of the others, perhaps not all, but some of the others? Or do they all pretty much operate the same way?
In the same way that each one is designed to serve the place that they are located and the people who live there. We all do our work somewhat differently. We have some core components that are very similar. We can all do things like accept complex gifts like stock and real estate and art and horses and, you know, things if folks want to make a charitable contribution and they have an asset that is not simply a check. We are a wonderful place to help people make those opportunities come to life.
So, community foundations share that, the ability to help with managing tax and managing asset and managing contributions, we all share that. That's something that you can get in any community foundation across the country.
What is unique about community foundations and what's unique about Oklahoma City Community Foundation is the way that we serve the community we are in. What we tend to be most known for are the efforts that we've built around supporting and sustaining nonprofits. So, we have a Charitable Organization Endowment program, where we support non-profits in raising funds. But ultimately the impact of that is that our local nonprofits get support checks every year for the work that they're doing, and that helps make their work sustainable. That's one thing that we're known for.
Another thing that we are known for is our scholarship program. We have a very large scholarship program. We have a very strong scholarship program. And in fact, one of the largest, certainly in Oklahoma, but one of the largest in the country. And it is something that many people have come to rely on us for.
Absolutely. All good stuff here Trisha, this is exciting. So, I want to just kind of keep the conversation going if you're okay with that. And I want to kind of talk a little bit about growth. And, you know, we mentioned earlier the growth of Oklahoma City and as you know, as this city continues to grow, do you see more challenges facing the citizens here?
That’s a really thoughtful question, Dan. I’ve been spending some time regionally as well, been spending some time understanding the economies in Texas and the economies across Oklahoma and taking a look at that because, you know, I am new to this region and this is different and we do have really strong growth here. So, I've been trying to understand the ways that communities grow.
First of all, it's a great position to be in. Let me just start there. Let me just start by saying communities that are on the uptick – we are all in a good position. So, it is a wonderful time. And in fact, it was one of the many, many reasons I chose to accept the opportunity and come here was to be part of a growing community, which is exciting for me.
As I enter those conversations, though. As I look at what people are doing, as I look at communities that have grown. One of the things that I've started to really explore and I've been reading about this and learning about this and being involved with it for a number of years but have really taken a new light on it is the sense of right sized growth, sustainable growth, inclusive growth.
So, growth for growths sake, to my mind, isn't necessarily the goal. It's “what is healthy growth?” Where can we draw in jobs that are paying people well, where can we attract people and bring them into the community and include them? And so, the sense of how you're creating growth that is additive to the city, that is bringing people in, that is encouraging people to take part and become part of the civic fabric
of this community versus just the growth number for growths sake, right? Everybody knows the stories of the cities, and I won't name them, but the stories of the cities, you know, who've maybe grown a little too fast or their infrastructure hasn't kept up with their growth or their housing costs have far outpaced and now people are displaced. And so, for me, growth is exciting. It is one of the many reasons that I get excited about the role that Oklahoma City Community Foundation can play.
And at the same time, I don't hold in mind sort of a sense of growth at all costs or all growth. What I see people stepping up toward is the sense of sustainable growth, healthy growth, inclusive growth. And that matters more to me.
Absolutely. I want to kind of switch it up a little bit here, Trisha, and kind of talk about the future of the foundation. So, you know, you've been here for several months. It's hard to believe it's coming up on a year in a few months, it’s crazy. It goes fast!
I know. I know right, it does!
We’re having a good time.
What level of growth would you hope to see for the Community Foundation maybe over the next five years? And are there other ways that you see the Community Foundation helping meet some of the community's needs as we continue to move forward?
Absolutely. Any organization needs to be looking at growth and we are in fact growing and we will continue to grow. I actually look a lot at growth in impact.
So, what about the funds that we're getting out?
What about the funds that we're drawing in? What about the new things that we're doing? One of the most exciting areas that I have continued to see growth, and I'm going to make a prediction that I think we're going to see even more is growth in something that you and I have spoken about and that you've spoken about on the pod before.
It's growth in scholarship. So, we all know that education is important. We know that it's not all always a four-year degree. Sometimes it's a certification, sometimes it's a career tech opportunity, sometimes it's an advanced degree, sometimes it's a master's or a Ph.D. Education is... The opportunities are wide, and we know that costs are prohibitive. We know that many, many people are interested in changing careers or a second or third career that they might need a certification for.
So, we had seen a number of donors coming in and saying, I see a need here. I'd love to support education and I'd love to make scholarships and scholarship opportunities available. I think with the cost of education and those, the kind of that pressure that I described earlier around workforce and quality jobs and people having the ability to reach those and fill those workforce needs. I'm going to say, Dan, I think one of our large areas of growth is going to continue to be to build out and continue to diversify and expand the ways that we can support education in this community through scholarship.
And I think that will look like some four-year degrees. But I think it will also look like micro certifications and certifications in some of the career tech programs. I think we're going to continue to see growth. And I think one of the areas that will see it is support for education through scholarship.
That's interesting because I know that, you know, our state, Oklahoma has a pretty, pretty robust career tech program here. And it really you're starting to hear more and more of it. So, it's exciting that you're kind of talking like that.
In terms of getting there, what kind of hurdles do you see the Community Foundation having into the future?
Well, I mean, we're a nonprofit, obviously, so, we've got to watch our bottom line and we've got to be efficient in our resources, as you know. I'd say there's actually one most common hurdle. In fact, it's actually a pretty tricky one. The most significant hurdle is people not only knowing about us, but understanding what we do.
You're not surprised by that.
No, not at all.
You're vice president of communications, right?
You know that. You know that it's… that's a difficult piece. But what's challenging, particularly about that, is more often than not, people will say, if I introduce myself or I'm introduced, people will say, oh, you know, either “I haven't heard of OCCF” or “I've heard of OCCF.” But then when I ask them a little bit more – they don't usually volunteer it –but if I ask them a little bit more, they may say, “you know, I'm not really sure what you do.” And so, the tricky thing about that is oftentimes people won't volunteer it. So, you don't know that and you don't know what you're working with.
But the thing about people not knowing is if people don't know about Oklahoma City Community Foundation or what we do, then that means they don't know how we can help.
So, the biggest hurdle that we have is awareness and not just awareness of the organization, but awareness of how we are relevant to what you might care about as an individual citizen, as a business leader, as a family member. And so, whether you're making decisions in the community about how you invest your charitable dollars or whether you're making decisions about a nonprofit to support with sponsorship, etc., you may not be making a connection to how OCCF can be a partner to you.
And I, I'd say that awareness, visibility and understanding is our biggest hurdle because we can't do more unless people come and allow us the opportunity.
Sure. I agree, yeah.
You know, one of the things that we've talked about before, Trisha, not so much on the podcast, but right now we truly are seeing a huge shift in the transition of wealth. And it's probably happening all over the country and it is happening here as well. What does that mean when it comes to attracting, you know, future donors or people that want to take interest in their community? And what does that mean to the foundation?
There is absolutely a large transition of wealth, and that's we're still on the front side of that, Dan, so, we're going to continue to see that over time. When folks come to us, we see two things most commonly. One is they're engaging multiple generations. So, it's the sense of two, three, even four generations talking about what they care about as a family, the impact they want to create as a family and recognizing that the community foundation is a unique place where they can all work together.
So, that's one thing that we see in the sense of transfer of wealth. The other thing is, we know that donors who are coming to us, whether it's wealth that they've created or wealth that's being transferred to them from a previous generation, we're seeing two things. One is they want to know the impact that their gifts are making. That's the first most common thing.
So, how are we doing the best job of making sure that people have an understanding the money goes out the door – that's happening. But how are we doing a good job of making sure they understand what their money provided? And then secondarily, people also want to know that we're managing our assets and their funds efficiently.
So, how are we making it possible for them to do more? But how are we doing it in the way that is really cost effective for them? And those are the two most common things we're seeing as folks come through the door. Again, whether they build their own wealth or whether that's wealth that they may be receiving from a previous generation.
I'm going to completely go off on this one, Trisha. And you know, you've been talking so much about what the foundation does and the importance and the relevance of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation in this community. What kind of things do you like to do outside of the workplace that really help you as a leader? What do you like to do? What really get your mojo going?
Well, I'm a big walker, Dan. I love to walk the city. We’ll often go to different parts of the city, park the car and walk around, check out a restaurant, check out a bookstore, walk around, talk to folks. And so, I do a lot of exploring on foot and, in fact, talked to a lot of people. I'm willing to talk to – even though, you know, I don't know where you would peg me on the introvert-extrovert scale, but I'm actually more of an introvert. But I see it as a really great opportunity when I'm out and about to ask people how they are. Ask people about their neighborhood. Ask people about how they spend their time.
So, I've done a lot of exploring on foot. I've covered a lot of Oklahoma City by foot, which for the square miles that we have here is not an easy thing to do. I've done a lot of that in my free time and it's been a great thing.
Any last-minute comments that you'd like to leave with us today? Any last thoughts? Words of wisdom.
I always want to end with a last comment. First, I'll say thank you to you and the team for having me on and for the work that you do; we really appreciate that. I'll say a couple of things. I had the opportunity to speak to a group last week and talk to them about some of the same thing that you asked me about. What are the challenges? What are the opportunities? What are the needs?
In that conversation, I referenced some information I was exposed to by participating in OKC Connect, which is a tremendous program that the Chamber and Leadership Oklahoma City have put on. Recommend that to anybody.
What I learned through that and through the individuals that lead the work at Oklahoma City Public Schools is that 92% of Oklahoma City public school students are at or below the poverty line. Their families are at or below the poverty line. Now, 92%.
It still makes a catch.
For those of you… it still creates a catch in my throat when I say that. And I paused and I started to think through that. I've lived and worked in a number of communities and that number is really high.
It's very high.
So, 92% of OKCPS students are living in families that are at or below the poverty line. So, as I talked through that with the wonderful group of people that I had the chance to speak with, I saw people's body language shift, I saw people's face shift. And I talked about some of the ways that we as a community can help make that support. But what it led me to was encouraging people to not be on the sidelines.
So, when you see a number like that, when you drive down the street and you see a need or you see a number like that, for many people, it's human to almost pull back. It's like, gosh, if it's that hard, what difference can I make?
And what I ended up talking about in that moment, you know, you see people's faces, you see people's body language, and you- you're able to react in the moment. And what I said in the moment is “don't be discouraged. We have to get in and brought about together. We have to get in and pull the rope together.” So, if anything, if you see a staggering, you know, statistic or number or you see something that feels like it makes you a little bit sad, then don't opt out. Don't be on the sideline.
Every hour of volunteerism, every gift, financials, you know, pulling together and doing things with other people, that's the way we get out of it. And so, that sense of, you know, my last comment would be the same last comments that I shared last week, which are “there is a lot.” Challenge, if you want to call it a challenge. Opportunity, if you want to call it opportunity.
But the truth is the only way that we will have our very best community is if every single one of us who are willing joins in, in whatever way you can. And so, my last comments would be, as we talk about challenges, we talk about growth, as we talk about the future. I would encourage people to find the way that makes sense for them to not be on the sidelines.
And if you're already in the arena, so to speak, for those of you who are familiar with that, then bring someone else in with you.
You know, it's funny, I love the way you say that. And it's one of the things that if you if people are out there and they've seen any of our awareness ads out there, the educational stuff that we're putting out there, when we say if you truly want to make a difference in your community, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation can help you make that happen.
And that is so true. That is so true.
That's why we're here.
You know, one of the significant advantages of working with the Community Foundation is that people can actually talk with one of our experts within the organization. What's the best way for people to get in touch with us here, Trisha?
We often find that our website is a great starting point for people – occf.org – and a lot of information on there, but we also have everyone's contact information. We've got phone numbers and emails and we describe who works on what. And so, that's our front door, if you will. The website. That's a great place to start. It's a great place to learn about where we are and what we're doing.
It also has events on there, so, we may have an upcoming event that you may want to join us at.
So, that's a great easy way to start. But other than that, pick up the phone. Pick up the phone and give us a call and we'll be sure to get you to the right person.
Absolutely. That's fantastic. So, Trisha Finnegan, President and CEO of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Thank you for being our guest today and sharing your insights with our audience. We appreciate you being here and encourage you to keep pushing the foundation forward; you're doing wonderful things. The work you and your staff are doing on behalf of our donors impacts our community in so many positive ways.
And after 53 years, it's hard to imagine what OKC would be without the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Thank you again for being here.
Thank you. It's a pleasure. And I want to say thank you to everyone who's welcomed me so, graciously in the Oklahoma City. It's an honor to be here with you.
That about wraps it up for us today. We sure enjoyed having you take a listen to Creating Impact Through Giving. If you want to find out more on how you can make a difference in your community, please reach out. Get in touch with us here at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Trisha and her team can make that happen and guide you where you need to be.
Join us again next month as we dive into the subject of charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder gifts. The foundation's own Joe Carter will be here and perhaps a special guest or two. And we know you won't want to miss it. I want to thank Trisha Finnegan again for being on the podcast today. And until next time, I'm Dan Martel and we hope you join us next month on Creating Impact Through Giving, have a great day.
Outro – Dan 29:00
Creating Impact Through Giving is brought to you by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, a nonprofit that works with donors to create charitable funds that benefit our community, both now and in the future. For all episodes and more information, visit occf.org/impact.
Thanks for listening today, and I'd like to leave you with this:
Everybody wants to create some kind of impact in your community. What would you like to do? Contact the Oklahoma City Community Foundation and let us help you turn your legacy into a reality, today. See you next time.