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Episode 148: February 6, 2023

George Interviews Megan Burke, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Mass.

Megan Burke says listening to the BusinessTalk podcast featuring Katie Allan Zobel, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Mass., certainly helped her when she interviewed to succeed Zobel in that position. Now, she’s in that job, and it’s her turn to be the guest on the podcast. She talks with BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien about everything from her varied background to her vision for the community foundation moving forward. It’s all must listening, so tune in to BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest and sponsored by PeoplesBank.


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Opening the Doors Wider

Community Foundation President and CEO Megan Burke

Community Foundation President and CEO Megan Burke

Megan Burke was taking a walk through downtown Springfield on a Sunday morning not quite a year ago, and found herself on Bridge Street, passing by the offices of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM).

She stopped, looked in, and became immersed in what she was seeing, while also not quite believing her eyes.

“I looked in the conference-room windows, and I saw the papers lining the walls detailing their strategic-planning process and all their priorities for the next year,” she recalled. “And I actually took some photos, sent them to my boss in Hartford, and said, ‘look at how transparent the Community Foundation of Western Mass. is; we need to be more like this.’

“There were no secrets — they just put it right out there,” she went on. “I took pictures, I took notes … I said, ‘hey, they’re moving to the same database system we use, but more importantly, these are things they’re prioritizing for the community.’”

The ‘we,’ in this case, was the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which Burke was serving as director of Community Impact Grantmaking. The amazing transparency she observed that morning was and is just one of the things Burke admired about the Community Foundation of Western Mass., and which she had come to respect from afar — or not really that far at all, depending on your take; she’s a resident of West Springfield.

And that helps explain why, when the agency’s long-time president and CEO, Katie Allan Zobel, announced in the spring of 2022 (just a few weeks after Burke’s walk in downtown Springfield) that she would be stepping down at the end of the year, Burke became interested in the position, at the same time she was being recruited for it.

After several rounds of interviews, during which she would see and hear more things that impressed her, Burke was tapped to fill Zobel’s very large shoes, thus beginning an intriguing new chapter in a career marked by more than two decades of work in nonprofit management, philanthropy, fundraising, and advocacy, with a particular focus on equitable access to economic opportunities and human rights.

Her career has included work on issues ranging from advancing LGBTQ+ rights in a Latin American country, Nicaragua, to continuing efforts to ban landmines globally, to the challenge of leveling the playing field between those in urban and suburban communities in Northern Connecticut.

“I looked in the conference-room windows, and I saw the papers lining the walls detailing their strategic-planning process and all their priorities for the next year. And I actually took some photos, sent them to my boss in Hartford, and said, ‘look at how transparent the Community Foundation of Western Mass. is; we need to be more like this.’”

Summing it all up, Burke said it has been invigorating and rewarding work, which she is anxious to take to the 69 communities served by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

In a wide-ranging interview with BusinessWest just a few days after she began work in those offices on Bridge Street, Burke said her broad goal is to build on all that’s been accomplished over the past several years to take CFWM well past check writing and into a role as convener and catalyst for positive change.

“I really want to spend at least the next three months getting to know the folks who are involved in the Community Foundation and who’s not involved, and opening our doors even wider,” she explained. “And listening to people — I have a lot to learn. I think I bring a lot to the job, but I have a lot to learn from the community about what they think is important and what they believe we should be doing better.”

She said the Hartford Foundation has been able to mobilize resources and support efforts to more equitable economic and social mobility, and one of her goals is to amass similar forces and create momentum on that same front in Western Mass.

“In both Hartford and Springfield, and in pockets of the regions more generally, success for people is often more closely correlated to the zip code in which they were born than their own talents, creativity, and hard work,” she said. “And I think that’s where the experience I have is relevant to thinking about how we can change that together — not just the Community Foundation, not just our nonprofit partners or our donors, but all residents of the region.”


Questions and Answers

Burke recalls that it “almost felt like I was cheating.”

That’s almost.

In the run-up to the first of her interviews with CFWM for the president’s position last September, she noted that Zobel was the most recent guest on BusinessTalk, the weekly podcast hosted by this writer. She listened to the episode, not once but twice, and heard Zobel talk in vague terms about what might come next for her career-wise — and, in far more specific terms, about the many new programs and initiatives she and her staff introduced during her tenure, everything from Valley Gives to Valley Creates.

the windows of the Community Foundation offices on Bridge Street

Megan Burke was amazed by the transparency she witnessed when looking in the windows of the Community Foundation offices on Bridge Street. It’s a tradition she intends to continue.
Staff Photo

“It was such a helpful interview,” she recalled. “I was able to get a sense of what she felt was important and what she thought were some of the great successes here.”

Whether listening to the podcast had any impact on her performance during that interview is a subject for debate (Burke already knew a great deal about the Community Foundation, as we’ll see), but what isn’t — according to those doing the interviewing — is that Burke is a logical successor to Zobel, and this position is a logical next step for someone who has spent a career working to advance diversity, equity, and the inclusion of diverse perspectives.

It’s a career that has taken her from New York to Nicaragua to Hartford, and to remote-working opportunities long before they became the norm.

Our story starts with Burke — who earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at Wellesley and a master’s degree in international relations at Yale — working for the Ford Foundation in New York, where she served as program officer, U.S. Foreign and Security Policy, Governance & Civil Society.

In 2007, she and her family moved to Nicaragua for what she called “a different pace to her work” than what she found in New York. There, she worked first for the nonprofit Centro de Estudios Internacionales, where her efforts supported the emerging LGBTQ+ movement and the development of a nationwide campaign to advance human rights.

“My role was to support various representatives of the movement to create a platform for them to come together and establish some advocacy priorities and to really be a go-between with the funder to make sure of the direction it was moving in, and to really track the impact of the work,” she explained. “For me … I had not worked on that particular issue before; it was incredibly eye-opening. It was very humbling to be working in a second language and be the least articulate person in the room.”

“During my time there, we announced a new strategic focus on dismantling structural racism and promoting more equitable economic and social mobility. And while that work is by no means easy, it’s incredibly important, and I spent the past few years with a great team trying to figure out how to make that happen.”

Burke worked for the group for roughly three years, eventually transitioning to a new role with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines. She started working as a researcher in Latin America — Nicaragua was a country impacted by landmines from the war in the 1980s — and eventually became executive director of the campaign.

She was still in that position when she returned to Western Mass. nearly a decade ago, eventually to ease herself out of that role — while also downsizing the organization, as more countries addressed the problem of landmines.

“It’s kind of nice to be involved in something where we could see steady progress and say we were working ourselves out of a job; it’s not often that you get to say that,” she noted. “Every year I worked there, the casualty rate declined.”

In some respects, leading a coalition to ban landmines is a world apart from work with a local foundation, she said, but in Burke’s estimation, the work is very similar.

“Sometimes people say, ‘how did you go from this international work focused on advocacy at the U.N. and traveling around the world to working for a local foundation?’” she noted. “My feeling on that is that every issue is a local issue somewhere, and what we were really trying to do at the international level is raise up local issues that were impacting people in mostly post-conflict countries, and get international attention to redistribute resources — not totally unlike what a foundation does to help those with the greatest need.”


Vision Statement

In 2017, Burke joined the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving as senior Community Impact officer, a position with a broad job description, one that included everything from work creating career pathways to efforts promote civic engagement through grants and training to increase voter engagement and participation in the 2020 Census.

In September 2020, she became director of Community Impact Grantmaking, leading the foundation’s strategic grantmaking — there was an annual budget of $25 million to $30 million — to advance equitable economic mobility and address systemic racism in Greater Hartford.

“During my time there, we announced a new strategic focus on dismantling structural racism and promoting more equitable economic and social mobility,” she explained. “And while that work is by no means easy, it’s incredibly important, and I spent the past few years with a great team trying to figure out how to make that happen.”

Not long after Zobel announced that she would be stepping down from her position, Burke received a call from a search firm to gauge her interest in the position.

It was quite high, she said, and for all the reasons she mentioned earlier — from the agency’s transparency with its goals and plans for the future, as evidenced by the uncovered windows facing Bridge Street, to its rapid and highly effective response to COVID, marked by a deep commitment to helping the region’s struggling nonprofits, along with many other successful programs in realms ranging from the arts to education.

Summing it all up, Burke said that, while she loved her work with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the only thing she might like more is a chance to similar work closer to her home, something this opportunity at the Community Foundation provided her.

Still, while those on the other side of the interview table had questions for her, she had some for them, and the answers — especially with regard to a willingness to broaden efforts in the realm of equity — would ultimately determine whether this would be the right fit for her.

“I wasn’t sure where they were in terms of their own strategic vision to promote equity and opportunity,” she explained. “And I know that when you take on work like that, it’s important that everyone has bought in, feels that it’s important, and sees the value in that work.

“You never have a situation where every stakeholder is 100% all in from the very beginning,” she went on. “But from other areas of my work, I’ve seen what happens when there is great resistance, and it makes it really, really hard. I didn’t know if there was resistance, but I also didn’t know how much buy-in there was. So in many of my early conversations, I really tried to get a sense — ‘is there a serious commitment to moving this forward?’ And I got a resounding ‘yes’ from everyone I spoke to.

“It was clear that the commitment runs deep,” she continued. “And that excited me.”

Elaborating, she noted that, while Greater Hartford and Greater Springfield are different in some respects, they are similar in most, especially when it comes to disparities that exist between the urban centers and the more rural and suburban areas, and the manner in which those inequities impact opportunity.

“When everyone has an opportunity to fulfill their own potential, I think everyone wins,” she went on. “When people are held back due to the circumstances of their birth, I think everyone loses.”

Burke started at the Community Foundation on Jan. 18, the day of a scheduled board meeting. She joked that this would be the first and only time she would be at such a meeting with the primary mission of simply watching and listening.

Although she still has a lot of that to do in general, and with a number of different constituencies, she noted that she has already embarked on what she calls a “listening tour.”

Its underlying goal, as she stated earlier, is to enable her to learn about the region and the issues facing those living and working here and to generate some momentum on the broad issue of economic and social mobility and making it more equitable.

“We don’t plan to change our broader strategic vision — I think it’s a great vision,” she said. “And promoting equity and opportunity is not something that’s going to happen overnight; I think there’s a huge commitment to that, and I was brought on to help figure out how to make sure we can operationalize that as effectively as possible.

“I have to listen,” she said in conclusion, “and make sure I’m building on what’s already happening here that’s great.”


Bottom Line

When asked what she likes to do when she’s not working, Burke offered a hearty laugh as she said, “take walks in urban areas.”

She also likes to hike in more rural settings, partake in yoga, be a good ‘dog aunt,’ and keep up with friends scattered across the region and around the world.

What she really likes, though, is to work with others to address what she called “seemingly intractable problems” — meaning everything from inhumane weapons to access to healthcare and education for LGBTQ+ residents of Nicaragua to food insecurity for residents of Greater Hartford.

Throughout her long career, it has been her mission to take doors and open them wider to enable more to pass through. With her latest assignment with CFWM, the setting has changed, but that mission hasn’t.

Daily News


SPRINGFIELD — The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts announced today that President and CEO Katie Allan Zobel intends to transition out of her role, concluding 17 years of service and a decade-long tenure as executive leader at the foundation.  

Zobel will continue to serve in her role while engaged in continued succession planning with the Foundation Trustees through September 2022.  

“On behalf of the trustees, I want to express my gratitude for Katie’s many contributions to the Community Foundation and to our community. She has led the organization with passion and a deep commitment to its mission and impactful work,” said Paul Murphy, trustee chair. “Under Katie’s stewardship and with the support of her talented and dedicated team, the foundation’s position as the region’s philanthropy hub has been strengthened by the more than doubling of its assets; the building of strong partnerships with donors, institutional partners, and community leaders; and the nearly doubling of its staff capacity. It is without a doubt that Katie is leaving the foundation stronger than it has ever been, which benefits the communities that it serves throughout Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties.” 

Building on the prior accomplishments of the foundation, Zobel has led the foundation through a period of extraordinary innovation, growth, and change. Under her leadership, the foundation launched and directed ValleyGives, which raised more than $10 million through annual one-day, on-line fundraising campaigns for local nonprofits, established new partnerships with state and private philanthropy to expand funding for the region, including the launch of ValleyCreates, a partnership with the Barr Foundation established to support a vibrant arts and creativity sector in western Massachusetts. 

The foundation has also supported research on college completion and expanded funding for local colleges and universities through its Western MA Completes initiative. The Community Foundation has distributed more than $13 million through the COVID-19 Response Fund to support community members and nonprofit partners most severely impacted by the pandemic. 

“It has been a joy, an honor, and a privilege to serve my community as a member of the CFWM team.  I arrived on a three-month temporary assignment that evolved into an amazing 17-years,” said Zobel. “I have had the great good fortune to be connected deeply to an incredibly generous and caring community that gifted me with countless opportunities to work alongside people determined to make the world a better place. 

“I am so proud of what we have built together, how willingly we have supported each other during some of the greatest challenges our communities have experienced, and the promise it holds for our future,” she went on. “It’s been quite an adventure and now it’s time for me to hand over the reins to the foundation’s next leader and seek out my next professional adventure.” 

A national search for a successor will commence this month under Murphy’s leadership. Last week the trustees elected the firm Lindauer to launch a national search for Zobel’s successor. Lindauer has substantial experience in placing highly qualified candidates in organizations like the Community Foundation.  

Daily News

HOLYOKE — People’s United Community Foundation, the philanthropic arm of People’s United Bank, N.A., announced that it has awarded a $5,000 grant to the Community Adolescent Resource and Education Center Inc. (The Care Center), which provides, innovational, educational support programs for low income, pregnant and young mothers (ages 16 – 24) in Holyoke. The grant will help bolster its Bridge to College program, which provides young mothers with in-house college courses for students preparing to take the high school equivalency exam, in addition to support services to promote college access and retention. 

Through the Bridge to College program, approximately 85 women will prepare to take The High School Equivalency Test (Hi-Set) while also gaining exposure to college-level work and receiving support in the college application process. 

“We are so grateful for the important investment People’s United Community Foundation has made in the lives of the young women in this community. With their support, young women have the opportunity to begin their path to college and on to a brighter future,” said Anne Teschner, executive director of The Care Center.

The Bridge to College program helps young mothers traverse the arduous path from high school dropout to college graduate. Similar to college preparatory schools, The Care Center program provides an ideal learning environment including small class sizes, lively academics, and a commitment to their students. Additionally, supportive services such as transportation, daycare, counseling, meals, and a staff nurse practitioner allow them to concentrate on their studies. Each year, approximately 70-80% of The Care Center’s graduates continue to higher education. 

“The Bridge to College program is giving young mothers a second chance and the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” said Patrick Sullivan, Massachusetts president, EVP of People’s United Bank and officer of the Foundation. “We are proud to be able to support them in their mission supporting young women at a time in their lives when that little bit of extra help and support can make all the difference.”

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, 42% of the Care Center’s 2020 graduates have already matriculated to college. Since 2016, graduates have had the opportunity to attend Bard Microcollege Holyoke, the nation’s first college designed for young mothers and low-income women. This program has a 74% graduation rate, with graduates going onto pursue Bachelor’s degrees at Smith, Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Trinity Colleges.

In total, People’s United Community Foundation and People’s United Community Foundation of Eastern Massachusetts collectively awarded more the $325,000 to 57 Massachusetts nonprofits as part of its first grant cycle of 2021.

Women of Impact 2018

President & CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts

Photo by Dani Fine Photography

This Administrator is the Region’s ‘Convener of Choice’

Katie Allan Zobel admits that, if pressed, her children would have a difficult time explaining to others what she does for living — not that she hasn’t tried to put it all into context.

The quick, easy answer is that she is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, and in that role, she oversees an agency that facilitates philanthropy to the benefit of residents and nonprofit agencies in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.

Again, that’s the easy answer. But Zobel doesn’t stop there, and shouldn’t, because there are many layers to her work that do make it difficult to articulate — to a child or even most adults.

“It’s a long-term proposition, what I’m doing, and it’s hard to explain,” she said, “because there’s not a daily, concrete ‘this is what I’ve made, this is what I’ve produced.’ It’s all so long-term, and it’s a total team effort — it’s not something I do on my own.”

Indeed, beyond the title on her business card, Zobel is, above all else, a connector and collaborator, or what Ralph Tate, retired managing director of Standish, Ayer & Wood and chair of the board of trustees for the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, calls the “convener of choice” for business and nonprofit leaders across this region.

He also described Zobel as an innovator, leader, and a reader, too — she volunteers for Link to Libraries at the Edward P. Boland School in Springfield — and in all those roles, she’s taking the Community Foundation far, far beyond an organization that awards grants and scholarships, although it does that, too.

“Katie is one of the Pioneer Valley’s most strategic, engaging, and respected leaders due to her expertise in philanthropy, intimate understanding of regional needs, and well-established relationships with a diverse set of community partners,” Tate said. “She brings honesty, integrity, authenticity, and humor to her daily interactions, and commitment and dedication to improving the quality of life in the Valley, and to fostering innovation in leveraging the foundation’s assets to those in need.”

Slicing through a long list of accomplishments and ongoing initiatives, Zobel is working to make the foundation — and individuals’ philanthropy — more effective and more impactful. Put another way, through innovation, perseverance, and a great deal of that convening described earlier, she’s working with others to take the art and science of philanthropy in this region to a higher plane.

And to bring these thoughts into perspective, she mentioned a new initiative called Western Mass. Completes.

“Katie is one of the Pioneer Valley’s most strategic, engaging, and respected leaders due to her expertise in philanthropy, intimate understanding of regional needs, and well-established relationships with a diverse set of community partners.”

This is an initiative involving the 10 area colleges and universities being attended by the largest numbers of Community Foundation scholarship winners, Zobel explained, and it is designed to help improve what she called alarmingly high numbers of first-year college students who don’t make it back for a second year, let alone to the podium on commencement day.

“It’s becoming a crisis,” she noted, adding that the percentage of non-returnees is perhaps as high as 30% nationally. “And we’re partnering with these colleges to understand how our scholarship students are faring. Are they graduating at similar rates? We’re using this cohort model to understand what practices these schools are using to get these students to completion, to get their degree.”

In short, the program is designed to help the foundation not only send students to college, but see them through to graduation day, and it’s merely one example of how the ever-humble Zobel says she is working to lead the Community Foundation into, and on the cutting edge of, a period of change in philanthropy.

“We have a very strong foundation — we’ve spent the past 26 years building trust and our reputation, creating extensive networks up and down the Valley, understanding the communities, and connecting with those who can be generous,” she explained. “And we’re at an inflection point; over the past few years, I’ve been trying to prepare the organization to go around that next curve and come out stronger.”

Initiatives in this broad realm include adding new members to the team at the foundation, introducing and growing the hugely successful Valley Gives program, and even moving the foundation’s office from high in Tower Square to a street-level suite of offices on Bridge Street, where it is more visible — and also a key cog in efforts to revitalize the downtown area.

“I like to say that I’m putting all the building blocks in place so by the time the next decade arrives, we’ll be in a position to meet that inflection and grow and be more effective for the community,” she told BusinessWest.

Her success in assembling these building blocks, and in making the Community Foundation an ever-more powerful connector and collaborator, helps explain — to Zobel’s children and everyone else — why she is truly a Woman of Impact.

Checks and Balances

While Zobel graduated from Boston College with a degree in English, she quickly gravitated toward philanthropy. Soon, it became a career.

She held positions with WGBY and Amherst College — where she led the alumni fund to a record participation rate in 1996 — before eventually joining the Community Foundation in 2004.

Since becoming president and CEO, she has led the organization to growth that can be measured in a number of ways, while fostering a mindset that places a much greater emphasis, on, well, measuring.

That’s because this is what donors, and society in general, are demanding these days, she said, adding that, increasingly, groups and individuals want to see results from their philanthropy.

“We’re in this era of big data, where we can access data more readily than we have in the past,” she explained. “And this data is important because philanthropy is changing; we all want to know if our investments, our donations, are having an impact.”

To that end, the Community Foundation is using innovation, as well as its ability to convene and collaborate, to help ensure that those philanthropic investments have more of an impact.

Examples abound and include Valley Gives.

Katie Allen Zobel displays a symbolic check showing the results from the first several years of Valley Gives, one of many initiatives she has helped introduce.

Katie Allen Zobel displays a symbolic check showing the amount of total grants and scholarships the Community Foundation of Western Mass. granted out to the community in fiscal year 2018.

“This was a three-year pilot program to see if we could be a more generous region, if we could help nonprofits tell their stories in the digital age,” Zobel explained. “Could we help the donors who care about the community to connect with organizations that are doing good work that they might not have heard about before?”

The answer to all those questions is ‘yes,’ and the three-year pilot has become a six-year pilot, a program that has raised more than $10 million for more than 800 nonprofits over that short span.

“We helped, we enabled … we didn’t raise any money ourselves,” she went on, adding that this is just one example of how the foundation has used innovation to not only assist nonprofits and those they serve, but also better understand the needs of this region.

This discussion brings Zobel back to that notion of putting building blocks in place to make the foundation a more effective, more impactful (there’s that word again) force within the region.

She said there are many of these blocks, including people (she’s still adding more members to the team), technology, such as online donations, for example, and, as noted, the right space.

In Tower Square, the foundation served the community, but it wasn’t really a part of it, she explained, adding that the address on Bridge Street, and the community space that is part of that facility, is a far more appropriate location from which to carry out its mission.

But there are other building blocks as well, she went on, listing, among other things, a better understanding of community needs and the forging of strong collaborations.

“We know we can’t do this alone,” she explained. “And I’m a big fan of partnerships, so I’ve developed really trusted relationships with the Davis Foundation, the MassMutual Foundation, the Beveridge Foundation, UMass, and many others.”

Coming Together

Through these collaborations and partnerships, the Community Foundation has taken a lead role in several pilot programs and new initiatives, including something called Honors to Honors.

This is a program whereby low-income students, most all of them first-generation students, from the area’s community colleges can transfer to the Honors College at UMass Amherst, and perhaps become better positioned to graduate with a four-year degree.

Statistics show that first-generation students are even less likely to finish college, said Zobel, adding that Honors to Honors is another initiative aimed at creating more impactful giving.

“We know we can’t do this alone. And I’m a big fan of partnerships, so I’ve developed really trusted relationships with the Davis Foundation, the MassMutual Foundation, the Beveridge Foundation, UMass, and many others.”

And it’s also another example of how the foundation is responding to the changing times within the broad realm of philanthropy and demands for results from one’s giving.

“We’re in a culture that asks questions and demands answers,” said Zobel, adding that this mindset has brought her and the team at the Community Foundation to ask more questions themselves. And those related to the success rates of scholarship recipients comprise just one example.

Those are important questions because getting a young person onto a college campus is no longer the goal — not that it ever was.

“We all know how powerful a college degree can be — it can break the cycle of poverty,” she explained. “It opens doors that couldn’t be opened otherwise, and it leads to a skilled workforce. By giving a scholarship, that led to assumptions that everyone who received one graduated; we know that’s not the case.”

More questions about this region’s needs, as well as its many assets and potential growth areas, has led to another intriguing initiative involving the foundation, this one focused on the arts community, called ValleyCreates.

Indeed, the Community Foundation of Western Mass. is one of five community foundations to be awarded a $500,000 grant from the Boston-based Barr Foundation for a pilot program to help nurture the arts and creativity sector in the region.

“This was an interesting new endeavor for us,” Zobel explained. “We were given a list of what they thought were about 58 arts organizations in the three counties, and we knew there were a lot more than 58.

“We went out looking, and put together an advisory board to help us look, and we found more than 225 organizations in these three counties,” she went on, adding that many of these are small and had never reached out to the foundation for support before, in part because they didn’t have the capacity to do so.

As a result of this learning experience, the foundation is responding in a number of ways, including training sessions to help these organizations focus on capacity building and specific issues and challenges like marketing, fundraising, and board governance, as well as the creation of an innovation grant to support arts and creativity.

Meanwhile, a request for proposals is being readied for an arts hub — a digital clearinghouse that connects arts organizations across the Valley so they can share information and potential opportunities.

The two-year program is another example of those building blocks, and also of Zobel’s efforts to build a stronger, more far-reaching, more impactful Community Foundation and a better-connected region.

On-the-Money Advice

As she talked about these various initiatives, Zobel said they are very much a work in progress, a story with many chapters still to be written.

Still, much has been accomplished already, and Zobel has established herself as a Woman of Impact, even if her children would have a hard time putting into words what she does day in and day out.

She offered this explanation that might help a little — or a lot.

“I work every day with people who want to make the world better,” she said, adding that, in the most basic of terms, it’s her job to help them do that.

And she’s very, very good at it.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]