Philanthropic Leadership: It’s (Not) Accidental

By Henry Berman, Exponent Philanthropy

Catalogue DCExponent Philanthropy member Barbara Harman and the Harman Family Foundation are demonstrating the power of small-staff philanthropy to lead—and they’ve been doing so for at least the past decade.

Barbara is editor of the award-winning Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington, which celebrates its 10th year in 2013. When I spoke with her last month as part of Exponent Philanthropy’s interview series with philanthropic thought leaders, we talked about her role in creating and championing the Catalogue.

Published with lead funding from the Harman Family Foundation and support from its partners, the Catalogue spotlights the “landscape below the landscape,” according to Barbara, or originally the region’s community-based arts organizations.

How does Barbara—a former English professor at Wellesley College—describe her leadership role in creating the Catalogue? Accidental.

Did I think of myself as taking on a big leadership role? Honestly, I didn’t. I thought of myself as having an idea, something that I felt I could implement…in part because of the skills that I had. I knew how to write. I was the editor of my literary magazine in college. I feel like I knew how to produce a publication. I think I knew a piece of what I wanted it to be. And so a little bit I felt like I fell into it.

As it began to grow and the demands of it began to increase, I think there really was a moment when I needed to decide: Am I up for this? Is the foundation up for this? Will it continue to support this?

The answers to those questions were yes.

But what if Barbara’s leadership weren’t accidental at all?

Barbara’s story echoes the path to leadership emerging from our interviews with dozens of Exponent Philanthropy members—a path to leadership that begins with the deep desire to make a difference. Barbara was searching for an opportunity for greater social impact, and, fortunately for the region, she found it.

Over the past decade, the Catalogue has helped to raise more than $20 million for smaller nonprofits, plus added benefits for the featured nonprofits that convene at Catalogue-inspired events.

Listen to my entire conversation with Barbara, then let us know where you stand as leaders and how we can support you.

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Henry BermanHenry Berman became ASF’s CEO in 2011, previously serving as acting CEO, board member, and committee member. Through his experience as a foundation co-trustee and ASF member since 2003, he brings a firsthand understanding of the needs of ASF members to his role. Berman’s early career included positions as an independent communications consultant and director, writer, and producer of film, video, and multimedia programs for education, motivation, and fundraising. Follow Henry on Twitter @Berman_Henry.

3 thoughts on “Philanthropic Leadership: It’s (Not) Accidental

  1. Pingback: Why We Convene | PhilanthroFiles

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