Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I am writing to share with you that I will be retiring from my role as President & CEO of Sunflower Foundation in early 2024. It has been an immense honor to serve in this capacity for over 22 years, and I always will be grateful to members of the inaugural board of trustees, who had enough trust in my training, experience and leadership abilities to offer me this rare opportunity.
Sunflower Foundation was incorporated in 2000, and the inaugural board – appointed by then Attorney General Carla Stovall – held its first meeting in January 2001. It was a public meeting, and ironically, I was in the room that day representing the Kansas Health Institute. I was thrilled to be covering this new health foundation as it convened its first board meeting. Little did I know, months later I would be given the unique opportunity to lead this statewide philanthropic organization, a job I have loved for more than two decades.
In August 2001, I began my tenure as CEO. There was no office, no budget, no mission, no money, no bank account (the endowment initially was held by the Wichita Community Foundation). There was only a legal document (the settlement agreement) and the support of nine trustees who agreed that the foundation was established “to improve the health of all Kansans.” After much discussion, the board added the word “catalyst” to the mission statement – “to serve as a catalyst to improve the health of all Kansans.” And that word, catalyst, would become the most important concept and value in the foundation’s philanthropic work.
Our approach to philanthropy is rooted in relationship building and a deep reverence for the diversity of Kansans and their communities. Through these partnerships, we have been given a front row seat to the ingenuity, tenacity, empathy and tireless determination our partners demonstrate in addressing complex problems.
As I reflect on Sunflower Foundation’s work, there are too many achievements and milestones to list, but I am humbled by the energy, expertise and enthusiasm so many have invested to make them happen. What I am most proud of, though, is our commitment to supporting mission-aligned nonprofits through advocacy, education, collaborative learning, and capacity building. We learned early on that such support was essential to nonprofits’ abilities to fulfill their missions.
Change is always challenging, but I appreciate the wisdom expressed by Mr. (Fred) Rogers, who said, “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” I’ve yet to fully define that “something else,” but if philanthropy has taught me anything, it is that the next big idea is usually right around the corner.
The Sunflower Foundation Board of Trustees soon will announce details regarding the CEO search process. I am confident that the steadfast commitment by members of the Sunflower team and board to the foundation’s mission statement and grantee-focused philosophy of strategic philanthropy will continue to serve our state well into the future.
I extend my sincere gratitude and thanks to everyone who has contributed to this experience. As the great Maya Angelou said, “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” I look forward to the next chapter of the Sunflower Foundation.
Billie G. Hall
President & CEO