The Catalytic Philanthropy Podcast

Colleen O’Keefe ─ ”We Never Would Have Made This Impact by Relying on Grant Proposals.” How Listening and Building Relationships Allowed a Small Foundation to Catalyze Transformation - Part 2

September 26, 2022

Colleen O'Keefe, Executive Director of the Sauer Family Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota, points out that all grantmaking is done in the context of large systems encompassing nonprofits as well as government agencies. Colleen realized she needed to talk with people who work in different parts of the child welfare system to understand the system as a whole and where the foundation could add real value. In this two-part Podcast, Colleen shares how listening without preconceptions, inviting people to step back and reflect, and convening staff from diverse agencies re-framed and transformed the work. By listening and convening, the foundation was able to look at underlying causes, focus on prevention, and target its support to remove barriers and scale up services that had potential to change the way children and families were served, and address racial disparities.  


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Colleen O’Keefe is the Executive Director of The Sauer Family Foundation, whose mission is to invest in strengthening the well-being of children, so they thrive in their families and communities. In Minnesota she led a systems reform effort for the Child Welfare system and continues to work alongside colleagues on the reform efforts. Colleen has facilitated conversations for Exponent Philanthropy’s national community of lean funders on aligning philanthropic work for greatest impact, and the importance of listening.

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