Program Officer, Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts: Age 37
Jeffery Markham Jr. is no stranger to the nonprofit world, having worked with them in many capacities, from volunteer efforts to convening them in a major public-health research project. Now, the tables have turned — literally.
“After working with nonprofits, it feels good to be on the other side of the table, giving dollars away, as opposed to trying to find them,” he said of his latest new role, as a program officer for Community Impact and Partnerships at the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, spearheading a grant process that will center on community participation in design and distribution of funds.
“We’re shifting our way of thinking toward giving away money in a more trust-based way,” he explained. “The whole school of thought around trust-based philanthropy is, instead of seeking to put some dollars toward a specific goal, the foundation deems it important to give to organizations in a way that puts them at the center of it and allows them to dictate how they want to spend their money.
“In that way, we’re looking to be in a relationship with organizations whose philosophy and overarching values are the same as ours and trust them to steward the money in a way they see fit, and that will have the most impact.”
Markham helps oversee distribution of resources from more than 60 funds at the foundation, delivering more than $3 million to organizations annually.
Before joining the Community Foundation, he was the research project manager for a $2.3 million National Institute of Health-funded research project in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at UMass Amherst. The community participatory research project investigated the connection between stress and health outcomes in Black men in Springfield and its surroundings.
“It was a community-based resource project that involved community members in the development of the research,” he explained. “All too often, anchor institutions descend on communities, particularly communities of color and low-income communities, and extract information without bringing anything back or having them be a part of the process.”
Markham has also led projects at Caring Health Center and Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, and has volunteered with Gardening the Community, Men of Color Health Awareness, Democracy Behind Bars, the Western Massachusetts Health Equity Network, and many others.
“I hold dear my commitment to lifting up folks in our community, particularly the young people coming behind me,” he said. “That’s a really important piece of my life — to lift up issues in our community and try to find solutions.”