Harvest director vows changes coming

April 29, 2007

Changes are in the works at The Harvest Foundation, according to its new executive director.

The foundation, which was created in 2002 with proceeds from the sale of Memorial Health Systems, manages $200 million in assets and distributes grants designed to address local challenges in health, education and welfare.

Richard Killingsworth was hired as executive director Feb. 2 after a nearly yearlong search. One of his priorities is to make the foundation more open to the public.

He pledged that Harvest will operate with more candidness and "more transparency." He and the foundation's 13-member board of directors are aware that there have been problems in the past with how the public perceives the foundation and understands its mission, he said.

Killingsworth said he will work at the direction of the board "to alleviate that perception that The Harvest Foundation is not communicating their work in the community and how they are doing it. The board is committed to making sure we do that well," he said.

To do that, Harvest plans to work with the media, redesign its Web site, make changes to its annual report and interact more with area residents.

Part of what Killingsworth and the board want to do is make sure people understand that Harvest is trying to bring about long-term change rather than temporary relief.

"What we're trying to do with the endowment is build a legacy," he said. Instead of putting Band-Aids on people's immediate needs, Harvest wants to address the causes of those needs and ensure that they will not plague future generations.

Harvest will work with Mission House Creative of Raleigh to redesign its Web site. Killingsworth wants to profile success stories of Harvest's grantees so the public can see the results of the foundation's efforts.

He also plans to work more closely with organizations that receive grants to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their work, and to make those assessments available to the public. He plans to include some of that type of information in the foundation's annual report.

The next report, which should be published in July, also will include more financial information, Killingsworth said.

In addition to communicating with the public, he hopes to expand the foundation's staff to include more program officers. Currently, Harvest has only one program officer, John Estes. He and Assistant Executive Director Allyson Rothrock coordinate the organization's 52 active grants.

"That is a massive portfolio for program officers," Killingsworth said. "That's something we want to address in the near future."

One approach would be to have an officer for each of the foundation's mission areas: health, education and welfare. Those people would develop expertise in their areas and work with organizations receiving grants.

Killingsworth also hopes to bring more "shoe-leather philanthropy" to the foundation. That involves getting out in the community and talking with people to get feedback on current projects and ideas for future ones, he said.

Although he and the board have big plans for Harvest's future, Killingsworth said the foundation plans to stay behind the scenes and let the organizations it funds "be out front." His role, he said, is to serve the board and try to meet the needs of the community.

That will take time, just as becoming part of the community will take time, he acknowledged. But he plans to be here for quite a while, he said.

Martinsville "provides the challenge I need occupationally and personally," said Killingsworth, who has traveled extensively with previous jobs and most recently was program director for a foundation in Michigan. He also has relatives in this part of the country.

"I'm here for a lot of reasons that will keep me here for a long time," he added. " ...I want to sink some deep roots in a place."


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