CEO Message

Vanessa B. Briggs

President and CEO
Brandywine Health Foundation

February 8, 2021

2021, Seizing Opportunities to Advance Social Change

It’s no coincidence that my first 2021 CEO message is being released in February and not the first month of the new year. I did not want to simply draft a 2021 New Year CEO message merely stating resolutions and commitments. The year of 2020 unequivocally anchored being philanthropically responsive and addressing inequities as our path forward. As I prepared this CEO message, I curated a few old and new resources that reaffirmed the relevance of our eight guiding principles: Stewardship, Inclusiveness, Leadership, Collective, Community Engagement, Innovation, Accountability and Equity. My message is simple, we must take what we learned from 2020, seize the opportunity and lead with different approaches to solving once thought of as intractable societal issues and hold ourselves accountable.

Cede Power and Control

What we have learned over the past year is that our combined approach to our grantmaking has been well received by our grant partners and community. It includes adopting trust based philanthropy, grounded in relationship-based approaches, thus allowing grantors to cede power and control by creating a more equitable nonprofit-funder ecosystem. Learning from the Whitman Institute, Headwater Foundation and Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, all implementing the six key principles to Trust-based philanthropy, we too believe grant partners are the experts and therefore, we seek to develop partnerships that provide maximum flexibility for grant partners to apply funding in ways they identify will lead to greater impact. We are also leading with community voice as we adopt community-based participatory and shared decision-making approaches by creating a culture for community members to speak up and use their voice to influence change. As we listened to our community and grant partners, we are abandoning the proverbial standard grant cycle and will continue to make multi-year responsive funding decisions based on shared missions and community-driven solutions.

A New Approach To Racial Equity

As noted in the 2020 McKinsey & Company Report: It’s time for a new approach to racial equity its premise is centered on, despite decades of efforts by public, private, and social sector organizations, racial inequity has only increased. Their approach intentionally aims to accelerate research, to convene people and organizations and to develop tools and assets that can advance racial equity. In essence, like the Brandywine Health Foundation, we too believe no single sector can solve long-term systemic racial issues that have perpetuated inequities and health disparities. Similarly, our Collective Impact approach also brings diverse people and sectors together in a structured way, to achieve social change. Over the past year we have learned that our Collective Impact approach share many of the same five attributes noted in the 2020 McKinsey & Company Report: It’s time for a new approach to racial equity:

  1. United around one clear mission
  2. Coordinate and collaborate via central backbone organization
  3. Secure adequate and appropriate funding
  4. Ensure accountability
  5. Win and maintain support from a broad set of stakeholders

Over the past two years we funded our first collective impact cohort group through training and planning. In 2021 we are moving forward with multi-year funding of their implementation plan. Our conscious decision to support the collective impact cohort for the long haul allows us to lead with accountability through data, build nonprofit capacity, and minimize duplication of services and programs, by working in close collaboration to maximize opportunities for success and identify ways to mitigate and address challenges.

Understanding Social Change Philanthropy

My last example comes from the Resource Generation: What is Social Justice Philanthropy tool. Social Justice Philanthropy is also sometimes called social change philanthropy, social movement philanthropy, and community-based philanthropy. No matter what we call it, what we do know is that historically, social change is a long-term movement and not a program. The Resource Generation like the Brandywine Health Foundation focuses on the root causes of social, economic, and environmental issues. It too incorporates including people who are impacted by injustices as decision makers. The fundamental tenets of social change philanthropy are accountability, transparency and responsive grantmaking which align with the Brandywine Health Foundation.


These are just a few examples reaffirming the Brandywine Health Foundation’s newly combined approaches moving forward to impact much needed social change in the Greater Coatesville community. As I lead the Brandywine Health Foundation forward, I am excited to see the many opportunities for all of us to operate differently. Long gone are the days we can simply wait for things to go back to normal or continue to operate as if this monumental awakening over the past year has not occurred. Our communities are relying on us to reexamine our approaches and to hold ourselves accountable to operate more transparently and inclusive while putting intentional efforts to influence and participate in cross-sector collaborations as we strive to make advancements in solving our most complex social, economic, and environmental injustices.

Yours in health,

Vanessa B. Briggs

Vanessa B. Briggs
President and CEO
Brandywine Health Foundation