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Louisville Philanthropy Leaders See Opportunity In Changing Industry

Rush Hour in Louisville, Kentucky Skyline at Sunrise
Rush Hour in Louisville, Kentucky Skyline at Sunrise

Listen to the episode here: 

Why does Louisville have so many fish fries?

Panelists on WFPL’s In Conversation Friday said the city's philanthropic sector is changing, and there are new opportunities for it to grow.

Our guests:

  • Metro United Way CEO Theresa Reno-Weber
  • Gheens Foundation President Barry Allen
  • Papa John's International Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Victoria Russell 

Metro United Way CEO Theresa Reno-Weber said the economy has changed philanthropy, but the industry can adapt.

“Right now we are under a major disruption in philanthropic giving in the nonprofit space in general,” Reno-Weber said. “What I know about disruption is it also provides a huge amount of opportunity for innovation.”

Faced with a soaring state pension obligation, Louisville Metro Government leaders this year slashed millions of dollars from the city budget,including funding for some nonprofits.  That has placed pressure on philanthropies and others in the community to step up their support.  

Victoria Russell, the Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Papa John's International, said philanthropies can innovate by being more transparent with donations people give them. Russell said younger people want that transparency, and adapting to their needs would make donating more attractive.

“To keep up with the times, how do we allow more of those opportunities for people to give to the causes that they’re passionate about? [To] elevate the causes that they’re passionate about?” Russell asked. “It’s going to be important for us to continue to follow the trends that will help continue to get people more engaged.”

Gheens Foundation President Barry Allen said these changing trends present challenges, but philanthropies are doing a better job at working together.  Allen said that could lead to more substantive change for communities in need.

“There is a desire, and actually already action on the part of grant-makers in Louisville, to come together to find more flexibility in our grant-making so we can be more collaborative,” Allen said. “We also are beginning to think more about being engaged collaboratively in public policy advocacy … so that’s encouraging to me.”

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about the Louisville Story Program’s newest book about Churchill Downs.

Disclosure: The Gheens Foundation has supported and continues to support projects at Louisville Public Media.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.