Could it be that nonprofit leaders collectively have the knowledge and skills we need — and we just need the platforms and opportunities to share what we know with each other? In Season 2 Episode 4, you’ll meet a funder whose unique talent-investments demonstrate the power of this idea.

The Pierce Family Foundation invests in organizational capacity and individual leadership by advancing peer-to-peer sharing of knowledge and skills among nonprofit workers in Chicago’s housing and homelessness field. They help leaders at various levels use frameworks such as ‘adaptive leadership’ to advance their work. They’ve teamed up with Forefront, the Illinois association of funders and nonprofits, to take some of these efforts to the statewide level. Pierce has also partnered with other funders and community leaders to build-up neighborhood-based resource centers for nonprofits led by and serving communities of color.

In this episode, we go deep with Heather Parish, the Pierce Family Foundation’s Co-Executive Director. We discuss how investing in the nonprofit workforce in a place-based context can begin to address issues of racial inequity, burnout, and the difficulties of tackling complex social problems. Heather is joined by Lisa May Simpson, Vice President of Learning and Engagement at Forefront.

Topics Include: 

  • Pierce Family Foundation’s unique model of investing in the workforce of grantee organizations
  • How investing in the nonprofit workforce in a place-based context can begin to address issues of racial inequity
  • Adaptive leadership and the difficulties of tackling complex social problems. 


Resource Links: 


Guest Bios:

Heather Parish serves as Co-Executive Director for the Pierce Family Foundation, which provides “full mission funding” via unrestricted general operating and capacity building grants for nonprofits that provide housing and services for people experiencing homelessness in Chicago. Prior to joining the foundation in 2013, she worked for over 17 years as a full-time independent consultant to nonprofits and foundations engaged in housing, community development, and capacity-building initiatives. Heather holds a BA in Applied Mathematics from UC Berkeley and a Master of Public Policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School, where she specialized in Housing, Community Development, and Urban Economic Development.


Lisa May Simpson is Vice President of Learning & Engagement at Forefront, which connects Illinois grantmakers, nonprofits, and advisors. Lisa has served as an independent coach, facilitator, and consultant for a variety of individuals and organizations. Lisa currently serves on the board of Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self-Defense Center and the Leadership Council of Barrel of Monkeys. She holds a BA in theater from Western Washington University.

Lisa’s LinkedIn profile: