Q & A with GMN's Four New Board Members
I was delighted to meet GMN’s four new board members at the fourth annual GMN conference in Denver, Colorado (which was an astounding success – don’t miss the conference recap and Adam Liebling’s unique take on the annual meeting, elsewhere in this issue). The new board members are: Sue Fulton (Endowment for Health, New Hampshire), Adam Liebling (Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, New York), Jennifer Pedroni (North Penn Community Health Foundation, Pennsylvania) and Cristina Yoon (Skoll Foundation, California). Click here for their bios.
I hope that you will sense from their answers to the questions below that they are intelligent, warm, funny, and down-to-earth people. I think they are a fine addition to the board and that GMN is in good hands as its leadership moves forward to execute our new three-year plan. They are ready and willing to serve and to hear from you all. So don’t be shy about sharing any concerns and questions that you might have with them. I know I did! Last, but not least, I want to thank each of them for their time and attention in answering all my questions and for stepping up to lead GMN into the future.
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
Sue Fulton: Prior to working at the Endowment, I worked as a data analyst for the Vermont Program for Quality in Health, an organization dedicated to developing and implementing a system of quality design and measurement for physicians, and other health care professionals, hospitals, and health care facilities, enabling users and purchasers to continuously improve the use of health care resources.
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Granite State College and an associate degree in accounting from the Community College of Vermont.
Adam Liebling: Sure! I’m currently the Senior Grants Manager at the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, which has both grantmaking public charity and private foundation arms. I have ten years of foundation experience, having previously been at the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Autism Speaks. I’ve co-chaired the New York region of GMN for the past few years, which is a blast. I have a BBA in marketing, of all things, from Baruch College. I’m married to a wonderful person and we live in Queens, New York, with a beautiful 3-year-old red tabby cat named Rusty Ramone.
Jennifer Pedroni: I graduated from Temple University with a degree in accounting and then went to work at Coopers & Lybrand and received my CPA. I then worked for Ambassador Walter Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation for about 13 years before taking my current position at the North Penn Community Health Foundation. I have also served as a board member for a local organization serving the homeless, and as president of the local school district’s umbrella organization for a group of 20 home and school associations.
Cristina Yoon: I’m currently the Grants Manager at the Skoll Foundation, which was founded by Jeff Skoll, the first president of eBay. I made a career switch in early 2001 from high tech/new media to philanthropy. So, as someone who had to learn all aspects of grants management (very quickly, since I was the sole grants management staff until 2008 and our annual giving grew from $1.5 million in 2001 to $77.7 million in 2008), I understand the challenges grants management professionals face. If it weren’t for GMN and the network of colleagues and friends I’ve met through it, I would not have gained the necessary knowledge to be successful in my position. I’m so excited to be serving this very special organization that facilitates networking and peer learning.
What strengths or skills do you hope to bring to the board and to GMN in general?
SF: My strengths and skills are very typical of most grant managers; I have a pretty strong background in finance and database management and a determination to get the job done. I really enjoy meeting new people and exchanging ideas. GMN is a great organization and I am really looking forward to serving the membership.
AL: This is a great board that is elevating grants management and GMN in very important ways. Honestly, any skills I may have aren’t unique to this extremely talented group. But my strength may simply be that I’ve never forgotten why I’m part of GMN – because it’s enjoyable. I hope to bring that enthusiasm to help keep GMN fresh, interesting, and fun, which I don’t think is mutually exclusive from the excellent activities to professionalize grants management and strengthen GMN’s voice in the sector.
JP: I am hoping to bring my financial skills, including nonprofit finance and budget development, as well as leadership skills from other board experiences.
CY: One of the most rewarding opportunities I have had in utilizing my project management skills was during the GMN executive director search. I was invited to be on a six-member search committee to recommend candidates to be GMN’s first executive director; and I took on the role of designing, implementing, and managing the search process. It enabled the committee to review more than 300 resumes, conduct interviews with nine semi-finalists in seven states, and finally recommend a finalist (that would be our one and only, Michelle Greanias) at the board meeting in April 2008. Also, my background is in film and design, so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to use those skills to contribute to our new web site and online community as well.
What are you co-chairing as part of your new board duties?
SF: I am co-chairing the Conference Committee. My most important responsibility will be to keep things moving and coordinated. Talking with previous co-chairs, committee members, and GMN staff will be my first step.
AL: Conference Committee co-chair. In this age of easy accessibility to information, anyone can find the technical answers they are looking for. They can also call a colleague or attend a webinar. So the big question is how to persuade people to travel a long distance, taking them away from their families for a few days, for information that they may be able to get more conveniently. My hope is to focus on a program slate and activities that are just as appealing as they are useful and practical. With Sue Fulton as co-chair, a very dedicated committee of volunteers, as well as the host committee, I don’t think this will be a challenge at all!
The next conference will be in Baltimore, right smack in the Inner Harbor, which is really neat. It will be perfect for members traveling with their families or tacking on vacation days – the Inner Harbor has family-friendly restaurants and, of course, their famous aquarium, which I can attest is one of the best in the world. And Washington, D.C. is a very quick train ride, so you’ve got free Smithsonian museums, monuments and the National Zoo (can’t miss Tai Shan the panda.).
As far as the program, we’re looking to provide a balanced mix of sessions covering different experience levels, types of grantmaking organizations, and grants management skills, as well as professional development. With a number of concurrent sessions, the biggest problem will be deciding which one to attend.
JP: I am co-chairing the Finance Committee. The most important thing that we need to tackle is to develop a fundraising strategy that supports GMN’s new three-year plan.
CY: I’ll be co-chairing the Communication Committee with Peg Butler. We have a fantastic team that is dedicated to the internal and external marketing and promotion of GMN. I’m a believer in approaching projects with enthusiasm and a sense of humor. I also feel that GMN’s mission speaks to all of us so naturally, and we’re excited about promoting GMN and getting the word out on the services and products GMN can offer to grants management professionals and others in the philanthropic sector.
What is your favorite book and movie?
SF: I really like all of Jodi Picoult’s books. As for movies, I am not too much of a movie person. I do like some of the old movies such as Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind.
AL: Oof, tough. For book, it's a tie between For Whom the Bell Tolls, Don Quixote, and World War Z (the finest in zombie literature). My favorite movies are Twelve Angry Men and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
JP: I love to read but I can’t pick a favorite book. That is like asking me to pick my favorite child. I am not much of a movie buff, although I do like dramas and comedies but usually wait until they come out on DVD. I don't really have a favorite.
CY: I have too many films to name! Chungking Express, The City of Lost Children, My Neighbor Totoro, Blowup, Scenes from a Marriage… I can go on for a while. I spend a ridiculous amount of time watching movies.
What would be something people would be surprised to learn about you?
SF: I was a stay at home mom for 14 years and finally completed my bachelor’s degree last year.
AL: When I was four years old, I was dancing around while balancing a dandelion on my face and the dandelion somehow shot up into my nose. I had to get it surgically removed. It was awful.
JP: I sing in a praise band at church.
CY: I lived in the Dominican Republic when I was young.
What are your interests?
SF: Walking, swimming, reading, and keeping up with family and friends.
AL: Well, I’m a big foodie and I love to cook. I’ve caught the travel bug and enjoy immersing myself in other cultures. In the past couple of years, I’ve been to Trinidad, France, England, Argentina, Norway, Panama, and Hong Kong, with Spain and Brazil coming up. It’s amazing what you can do with little money – just find a good deal, stay in a tiny place, eat at the cheaper local joints (always the best food), and hoof it around town - and I leave the Blackberry at home.
JP: Hanging out with my kids, reading, making stained glass projects, walking, bike riding, vacationing at the beach, and exploring cities.
CY: Does eating count as an interest? I love to eat, talk about food, take pictures of food, and watch Food Network and Travel Channel shows. I like trying new food and seeking out interesting flavors. While I won’t eat bizarre food for the sake of eating weird food, I must say I’m quite adventurous and have had plenty of “interesting” food.
If you weren’t a Grants Manager, what would you be doing?
SF (Grants and Financial Manager): If not in grants management, I would probably be an accountant, data analyst, or some role in the financial sector.
AL (Senior Grants Manager): I’d probably combine my loves of food and travel. I have a dream (goal?) of moving to Buenos Aires and throwing dinner parties for English-speaking ex-patriates and travelers. It’s perfect – I’d get paid to eat, drink, and socialize. Grants managers, of course, are invited anytime. (Perhaps the GMN Annual Conference in 2035?)
JP (Finance Manager/Grants Administrator): That is a great question and I wish I knew the answer! Definitely something working closely and interacting with people.
CY (Grants Manager): I’d like to find a way to combine my love of food and travel. I love to eat (definitely more than to cook) and travel. In the last few years, I’ve been to Morocco, Germany, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Cambodia and Hong Kong.
Also, I started teaching yoga at work, so I’d definitely consider getting certified. I love introducing yoga to people that have never tried it. Maybe I can talk to the Conference Committee about sneaking in a yoga session in 2010?
Any final thoughts?
SF: sfulton [at-sign] endowmentforhealth [dot] org -- In a conversation on the last day of the GMN conference, Sue told me that she is flexible and available to work together with the membership to promote the work of the grants managers. Sue has a daughter who is a Grants/Financial Manager at MIT and a son graduating from Bryant University in Rhode Island with a finance degree in May 2009.
AL: If anyone would like to help out with the conference or in other ways or just wants to say hi, please call me at 212-901-8005, or email me at aliebling [at-sign] alzdiscovery [dot] org.
JP: I am really excited for the opportunity to serve on the board and am looking forward to meeting and working with a lot of great people. I have two teenagers - Briana who is 16 and Austin who is 15. I love hanging out with them and they keep me really busy.
CY: Please feel free to call (650-331-1048) or email (cyoon [at-sign] skollfoundation [dot] org) me if you’d like to help out with the Communications Committee. Or just to talk about food and travel. I’d love to hear about your favorite dining and travel experiences!
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