Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

Detroit Exec Tapped to Lead Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation [Buffalo Business First]

Oct 29, 2015 | Posted in News

Buffalo Business First - October 29, 2015:

By: Tracey Drury
Buffalo Business First Reporter

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation has hired a Detroit-area foundation professional as its first president/CEO.

David Egner will lead the $1.2 billion foundation as it maps out a plan to spend down its assets over the next 20 years. Those assets represent the proceeds from the sale of the Buffalo Bills last year by the family of the late Ralph Wilson, founder of the Bills.

Based in the Detroit area, Egner brings 25 years’ exerience in foundation management, including posts at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Hudson-Webber Foundation, where he served as president and CEO since 1997. He also served in a dual role since 2009 as executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, a $135 million funder collaborative charged with driving economic growth through entrepreneurship and small business development.

Egner will remain based in Southeast Michigan, but expects to spend about a third of his time in Buffalo and Western New York, building relationships with charitable organizations and other funders.

Already, he sees opportunities to share best practices between the two Great Lakes regions.

“It actually presents tremendous opportunity for people who have been doing good things in both cities to learn from each other,” Egner said. “With the connections that I have in Detroit through years of networking, I’m anxious to bring some of those folks to Buffalo to learn what’s happening there and vice versa. Some of that’s already started.”

Egner’s appointment comes as the Wilson Foundation continues to develop its long-term strategic plan, and readies to begin accepting grant applications next year. It also follows $8.2 million in gifts awarded to Western New York nonprofits through a 2015 legacy grant program.

He was selected for the post after a nationwide search by foundation trustees, including Mary Wilson, the widow of Ralph Wilson, who said Egner brings the skills and passion necessary to fulfill her late husband’s vision.

“David’s past experiences, his passion for our mission and his own personal values give us confidence that we are selecting someone with Ralph’s stamp of approval,” she said.

The Wilson Foundation has targeted children, young adults and working-class families, seniors, caregivers and communities as its areas of focus. However, each of those include subcategories that should allow for broad funding opportunities. The priority area of children, for example, includes early childhood development, youth development, healthy lifestyles and sports and other activities that strengthen minds and bodies.

In addition to grantmaking, the organization will invest in productivity opportunities in the nonprofit sector; as well as collaborative grantmaking for transformative projects both inside and outside its target regions. That will include developing relationships with such groups as the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.

“This is such a tremendous opportunity to build something with the legacy trustees who really knew Mr. Wilson,” he said. “We’re sewing the parachute after we’ve jumped. We’ll work through much of this in time, and I expect it’ll take a good part of 2016 to really hone in on our focus.”

To view this story in Buffalo Business First, click here.

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