With new strategic vision, Skillman Foundation announces major staff reorganization

DETROIT – The Skillman Foundation has adopted a new strategic framework and is announcing several staff changes that reflect that renewed vision for its work for Detroit children. Those new appointments include 11 internal promotions, including three new vice presidents.

The Foundation’s mission, more than 50 years strong, to work to change the odds for Detroit kids will continue with a focus on seeing kids graduate from high school prepared for college, career and life. The Foundation is strengthening its commitment to four areas of work where it has found success in the last decade: community leadership, youth development, schools and neighborhoods. And it will expand the Foundation’s work to introduce support for safety initiatives and social innovation. (Read more about the new strategic vision here.)

“To make our Foundation as strong as possible, so that we can produce real change for Detroit kids, we need our staff to be as strong as possible,” said Tonya Allen, the Foundation’s current chief operating officer and incoming president. “Our strategic planning processes included intense scrutiny of our staffing structure and talents. We’ve reorganized our staff in a way that promotes collaboration across the Foundation and that flattens our organization, so that people’s talents and skills are put to the best use.”

The staff changes, effective immediately, are made to reposition the Foundation’s staff to align with its new objectives and work areas. They include:

  • Kristen McDonald is now serving as the Foundation’s vice president, program. McDonald, who previously held the title program director, education, will oversee all of the Foundation’s strategic grantmaking, which averages $17 million a year. She has been with the Foundation since 2007. 
  • Chris Uhl, who has been with the Foundation for one year, is now serving as vice president, social innovation. Uhl had previously served as director of changemaking. In his new role, Uhl will develop a new line of social enterprise work for the Foundation, which will include PRIs, MRIs, non-grantor advised funds and a network of champions. 
  • Danielle Olekszyk, who previously held the title of chief financial officer and treasurer, is now responsible for overseeing all of the Foundation’s operations, including human resources, grants management, finances, technology and administration. Her new title is vice president, operations & CFO. She has worked at the Foundation since 2004. 

The Foundation also welcomes Laura Hughes to its team as a program officer. Hughes will be responsible for the Foundation’s portfolio of youth development grants. She previously worked as the executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center.

Several other Foundation staff members have had title or responsibility changes. See the full staff list at www.skillman.org. The Foundation’s staff will undergo several professional development and trainings in the coming months to help make the transition to its new way of working as successful as possible.

The Foundation has also announced more details to its previously announced leadership transition. Carol Goss, president of the Foundation since 2004, announced in December that she will retire at the end of 2013. At that time, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees named Allen as her successor. In July, Allen will assume the title and role of Chief Executive Officer. Goss will retain the President title through the end of the year.

Created in 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy committed to helping children in the Detroit region become better prepared for college, career and life. The Foundation currently has assets of about $430 million, with an annual grants budget of about $17 million. The Foundation works to achieve its goal by investing in community leadership, neighborhoods, safety initiatives, high-quality schools, social innovation and youth development.