Not a Pig with a Waltham Watch

I remember sitting at Con Hogan’s kitchen table, almost 10 years ago, as he succinctly explained how he had pioneered the then-radical concepts of government accountability and measurable outcomes as Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services. We were at his farm in Plainfield, I was the nascent Executive Director of the Permanent Fund for Vermont Children, a supporting foundation of the Vermont Community Foundation, and Con was my board member. A couple diagrams sketched on the back of a piece of paper, and – bam! – he illustrated the nationally recognized outcomes work that still drives so many people and organizations around world today to improve the well-being of their citizenry.

Con’s innovative ideas and his focused determination to get results transformed the largest agency in state government and improved well-being for every Vermonter, but, in typical fashion, he credited everyone else for the miracles he wrought, including, not in order, the Republican and Democratic governors under whom he served, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, other forward-thinking state government staff, and the non-profits who do good work every day in their communities.

That day, Con challenged me to figure out how to apply those concepts of accountability and measurable outcomes to philanthropy. He somehow managed to both set the bar fantastically high, yet also supported me as I struggled to reach it — meaning that I was fortunate enough to count Con as my mentor, as do so many others around the country.

In the ensuing years, we developed a tradition of carpooling to Permanent Fund board meetings. In theory, this meant that we met at the Berlin park and ride, and I drove us to the site visits and board meetings we held around the state, from nonprofit board rooms to prison visiting rooms. In practice, this meant that we launched into fiery debates on human services, corrections policy, and how to create sustainable change with private grantmaking as soon as our seat belts were buckled, and an hour later, one of us would eventually look out the window and say, “Where the heck are we?” as we bumped down some back road, with me having completely lost track of the directions I had so carefully composed in advance. (Truthfully, when we realized we were lost, the language was far more colorful than that, and typically included one of Con’s multitudes of euphemisms, that I often crossed my fingers hoping to hear. “A pig with a Waltham watch” is one of my favorites.) We became infamous for being the first to leave home for board meetings, and the last to arrive.

Con’s guidance sticks with me today. Five years ago, when I was doing feasibility testing in advance of starting Forward Philanthropy, I again asked for Con’s advice. He encouraged me to move forward to found this philanthropic advising firm — well, no, it wasn’t really encouragement, he gave me no choice but to press the “go” button. “Vermont needs this! Heck, philanthropy needs this!” he insisted. After that little mentoring session, there was no going back: Con is a force to be reckoned with.

So, it is a marvelous tribute for the Vermont Community Foundation to launch the “Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial, Community Leadership”. Please join me in making a gift to the VCF to support the award of $15,000 to a mid-career community leader with Con Hogan’s vision and commitment to making a difference, results, and community connection. And, come see the inaugural award being presented to the amazing Ellen Kahler, of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, on Thursday, October 8, 4:00 – 6:00, at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier (click to RSVP). I am sure it will be an inspiring event, but I just wish that the criteria for the award had included the ability to employ well-timed euphemisms.

Leadership, Ethics, and Philanthropy: Handing the Torch to the Millennials

The Millennial Generation’s interest in volunteerism and community service is well-documented.  It’s safe to predict that this generation will serve as an example for us all of how to build lives around one’s personal values.  But where can Millennials go to take these ingrained interests to the next level?  How can they access the learning of existing leaders in the philanthropic and business sectors, and shape their own commitment to service-oriented leadership?  Former business management consultant Dave Aldrich has responded to that need by founding Grab The Torch.

This week-long camp provides the opportunity for diverse campers to explore topics centered around leadership, ethics and philanthropy.  In the words of one camper, “Grab the Torch camp taught me to have the guts to go and follow my passion without turning back.”  With camps happening in Vermont, Colorado and Connecticut, Aldrich is hoping to have significant impact on  the next generation of leaders.

The Vermont Community Foundation is partnering with Grab The Torch to make possible 20 full and partial scholarship opportunities for the 2012 Grab The Torch Leadership Ethics and Philanthropy Summer Camp Institute.  The scholarship opportunity is open to rising first year high school students to rising first year college students.  The 2012 camp is August 12-17 at the Bishop Booth Conference Center on Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont.  Speakers, site visits and panelists include:

  • Rick Davis, President, Permanent Fund for the Well-Being of Vermont Children;
  • Christine Zachai, Principal, Forward Philanthropy;
  • The Webb Family, founders of Shelburne Farms;
  • June Heston, Executive Director of the Burton’s Chill Foundation,
  • Burton Snowboard Factory;
  • Youth Trade;
  • Nan Peterson, the 2012 Service Learning Educator of The Year;
  • Hal Colston, Executive Director, Vermont Commission on National and Community Service;
  • Jon Isham and Heather Neuwirth, Middlebury College Center for Social Entrepreneurship;
  • Ben & Jerry’s;
  • Lois McClure, J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation;
  • Stu Comstock-Gay, President and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation;
  • Paul Schervish, Director, Boston College Wealth and Philanthropy Institute;
  • Ken Berger, President and CEO, Charity Navigator;
  • Lauren Curry, Executive Director of Tarrant Foundation

Applicants must be full or part time residents of Vermont. The application process can be found online at For additional information, contact Dave Aldrich at 781-864-5758 or