Philanthropy Northwest Leadership Transition

Philanthropy Northwest Leadership Transition

Philanthropy Northwest Leadership Transition graphic with a headshot of Kiran Ahuja at the center
Kiran Ahuja
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Dear Colleagues,

Today I share some bittersweet news. I am stepping down as CEO of Philanthropy Northwest, effective June 30. I am honored to have served as Philanthropy Northwest’s first woman of color CEO, and I am grateful to our board of directors for the incredible opportunity to lead an organization whose values match my own, and whose mission of building resilient, inclusive and equitable communities is more urgent than ever.

Philanthropy Northwest’s network and members are incredibly vibrant and strong. I will continue to be inspired by your innovation and generosity. It is difficult to describe in words how much I will cherish the relationships I have built during my time with Philanthropy Northwest. I hold these relationships and experiences close to my heart and will carry them with me into my next chapter.

No doubt, this was a difficult decision and only after considerable consideration I shared it with our board. Philanthropy Northwest’s value of “being grounded in place” was a key attraction for me. And what drew me to this wonderful organization, I must now honor: my family has resettled in the Northeast. As our nation grapples with long-term effects of dual pandemics and begins the long recovery process, it is critical that Philanthropy Northwest’s leadership be based in and closely connected to the Pacific Northwest.

The board has formed a search committee led by Brenda Solorzano, CEO of Headwaters Foundation based in Missoula, Montana, and has a robust CEO transition plan in place. Anjana Pandey, executive vice president, will serve as interim CEO after my departure. Many of you know Anjana well; she’s been a respected leader in the organization and in our sector for a number of years.

While there is never an “ideal” time for a leadership transition, Philanthropy Northwest is financially strong, has an incredibly committed staff with the right people in the right positions, and will continue to support and lead this region’s philanthropic sector toward greater equity by its words and actions. As an organization, we remain energized about our job openings as we continue to grow, supported by a diverse and engaged board and membership. I am leaving Philanthropy Northwest in very capable hands as the board conducts its search for the next CEO.

I joined Philanthropy Northwest at a pivotal time in our sector and country - when political discord was rising as faith in our democracy was declining. Philanthropy was realizing the ever-increasing role it plays in preserving our country’s democratic ideals and institutions and putting greater faith and trust in the hard work of our local leaders and nonprofits. I am incredibly proud of what our board, staff, members and partners have accomplished over the last four years: mobilizing resources to communities most impacted by COVID-19; advocating for and investing in a fair and accurate census; raising our voices and support not only to stop all forms of violence against communities of color but addressing persistent systemic inequities that have plagued our communities, region and country for far too long; and building deeper and more authentic relationships with leaders who play key roles in our collective welfare.

At my welcome meet and greet, I shared a quote by Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. “We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”

I leave knowing that as a network we make that choice everyday: to embrace our humanness, lead with compassion, and work toward greater equity and prosperity for all. Thank you for supporting Philanthropy Northwest and this vibrant philanthropic community.

While in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve made lifelong friends and colleagues. I take too many lessons with me to count. I’m a far better person because of knowing each of you. And I look forward to staying in touch.

With great admiration and love,