GRCF leader joins national board

October 18, 2010
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Grand Rapids Community Foundation President and CEO Diana Sieger is taking her show on the road.

Earlier this year, Sieger joined the board of directors of the Arlington, Va.-based Council on Foundations, the national organization for the 2,000 member foundations of all shapes and sizes.

With just one board meeting conducted in Little Rock, Ark., under her belt, Sieger said she’s been impressed with the depth of knowledge, breadth of experience and thoughtful approach of her 26 fellow board members. Another five people are ex-officio members, as Sieger was when she chaired a COF committee devoted to community foundations about 10 years ago.

“These are not pretentious people who are uncaring about issues in their community,” Sieger said. “To a person, there are social activists in there, human rights advocates, people who are really close to their geographic community, to all of us having interest, on a national scope, of key issues. No longer, in my mind, is there an elite crowd of foundations. It was really diverse.

“But the thoughtfulness that people had in their comments, and the respect … you could tell people, I sensed, were really listening to one another.”

The board includes several other representatives from Michigan, including leaders from The McGregor Fund, The Skillman Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Sieger became the leader of the GRCF in 1987, moving from a post at what is now the Heart of West Michigan United Way. Since then, she has been active in state and national philanthropy organizations.

“I stayed really involved with key issues and stuck my neck out,” she said.

Sieger said she chaired the COF’s community foundations committee at a “tumultuous time,” when some members were wondering if it would best to establish their own organization. Sieger said she opposed such a move.

She also worked on the development of national, professional standards for best practices in community foundation operations.

Sieger has been a board member and chair of the Council on Michigan Foundations.

Current issues at the national level encompass excise taxes, IRS reviews of donor-advised funds and helping people in other countries to introduce philanthropy and foundations.

The COF needs to provide a voice for philanthropy with Congress, the administration and, to some degree, the regulatory bodies, especially the Internal Revenue Service, she added.

“Once I get more immersed in the issues, I’ll understand more about where the minefields are,” she said.

“I’m really honored to be asked,” Sieger said, adding that the GRCF board supports her national involvement.

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