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Leader Profile:

Colleen Mitchell

Ms. Colleen Mitchell is currently a private consultant to multi-generational families of means, institutional grantmakers, and social entrepreneurs. As the former president and CEO of the Whirlpool Foundation in Michigan, she represented the corporate foundations on the Council of Michigan Foundations board of trustees. Ms. Mitchell brings a business perspective to her comments about the development of Michigan’s philanthropic initiatives and participated in the policy discussions on many of these efforts.

Leadership Highlights

Ms. Colleen Mitchell talks about her career in philanthropy.
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  • Ms. Colleen Mitchell talks about her career in philanthropy.
  • Ms. Colleen Mitchell talks about how the culture of Michigan philanthropy values strong relationships.
  • Ms. Colleen Mitchell talks about how there is room for all types of philanthropists in Michigan.
  • Ms. Colleen Mitchell talks about how the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) interacted with corporate grantmakers.
  • Ms. Colleen Mitchell talks about philanthropists who also balance their identity as business leaders.
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Education

Ms. Colleen Mitchell graduated cum laude from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education in 1982. She also earned an executive certificate in finance from the University of Michigan.

Philanthropic Biography

Ms. Mitchell’s early career began with the position of manager of public affairs and corporate giving for the IMCERA Group Inc., where she fostered corporate philanthropy in the Chicago area. In 1992, Ms. Mitchell accepted a position with Whirlpool Corporation, bringing her back to Michigan, where she served in numerous capacities throughout her tenure. As executive director of the Whirlpool Foundation, Ms. Mitchell led a global social responsibility initiative, designing and implementing a pioneering global social research, public awareness, and education program titled, Women: The New Providers. Reports about this program were published in eight countries and five languages, generating more than one billion print and electronic media publications in respected outlets such as The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and CNN.

In 2000, Ms. Mitchell accepted an opportunity outside of Michigan, with Bose Corporation in Massachusetts. While with Bose Corporation, she served as the group senior manager for global loudspeakers within the home audio department from 2000 to 2002. She then served as the category business manager and strategist for acoustics components in the home entertainment division from 2002 to 2004. Shifting from foundation management, she worked on the business side to ensure profits that would sustain the company’s private status and delight customers.

Ms. Mitchell also served as vice president of marketing for GN Store Nord in Copenhagen, Denmark, and as president of NorthShore Foundation in Evanston, Illinois. In both of these positions, Mrs. Mitchell was responsible for creating and executing strategic planning and growth opportunities for these organizations while serving on a number of foundation and nonprofit boards of trustees.

Contributions to the Field

Ms. Mitchell has been extensively involved in many facets of Michigan philanthropy. From 1995 to 1998, she served on the Council of Michigan Foundations board of trustees, providing a corporate philanthropic voice and leadership, and encouraging and supporting businesses in their philanthropic giving. During this time, she also served as chair of the corporate giving committee, later known as the corporate services committee, and held a position on the principles and practices task force. Ms. Mitchell served on the board of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and the Council on Foundations’ board of directors, representing the Council of Michigan Foundations in both roles. She has served as a member of the Berrien County Community Foundation and chaired the grants committee for the Harbor Country Endowment Fund.  She has also advised Mission Throttle, a Michigan-based L3C (low-profit limited liability company), that is focused on developing innovative concepts, social entrepreneurship, and creating business tools to accelerate the pace of philanthropy and positive social change.

“The risk-taking that I think is part of the culture of Michigan philanthropy — the leading edge thought leadership, exploration, discovery — it gave me the confidence that I was part of a larger community and it was an environment for me to step out and help my organization explore what, for us, meant, being risk-taking and staying relevant and really kind of pushing the limit… ”

Ms. Mitchell is the president and founder of VENTURE3Philanthropy LLC, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. VENTURE3Philanthropy is a philanthropic advisory firm, providing comprehensive strategic gift planning for family institutions and social enterprise (1). When discussing her career path, Ms. Mitchell explains she deliberately made the choice to come back to Michigan and rejoin Michigan philanthropy when starting her own company in 2010. “I think it was due to the deep-rooted footings of the relationships that I had built over the years that became friendships,” she said.

Quotes

Ms. Mitchell was interviewed regarding her insights and experiences in working with Michigan’s philanthropic community and the Our State of Generosity (OSoG) partners. The following are selected quotations from her interview specifically related to the five organizing themes of the OSoG project.

Servant Leadership in Michigan Philanthropy

“I think that in Michigan you have this wonderful simplicity, if you will, of independent, large-scale, well-endowed foundations that take their stewardship roles seriously. They’re thoughtful, they are planful, they are focused.”

“If I could pick one word for Michigan philanthropy and the lessons and what it represents it has always been about leading edge, exploring the outer limits, pushing the envelope, but in a thoughtful, planful way.”

National & Global Implications

“I was so happy to be serving on the board of CMF at that time because again, there were really smart people, both within CMF and within the larger not-for-profit foundations, independent foundations and there was a genuine willingness to explore new ways of making an impact and to put up seed capital and then get the right leadership horsepower behind it to actually make it happen. Make a multiyear commitment so that you could focus on, you know, rolling it out, replicating it, scaling it, showing some early wins and then getting people, then around the country motivated. That is what is so exciting about Michigan, and one of the catalysts for me to come back to the state for my philanthropy practice, because this is like an incubator for new thinking, new work. Not all of it always works, but that is always part of the practice of being a pioneer and Michigan philanthropists are humble enough and hardworking enough to sit back and say what worked and what didn’t and to learn from the shortcomings or where it fell short and to always build on it.”

Practical Wisdom

“My lesson, if you will, or my invitation to those today and those who will follow behind us is, it is so easy to embrace the passion of philanthropy. It is such worthwhile, such rewarding work to love and care for others. But if we don’t set aside time on a regular basis to step back and to really ensure our own well-being and our own love of ourselves and our own self-care for others — how much sleep are we getting, how well are we eating the right things and getting enough exercise and just staying the best that we can be as people — so that when we step into these roles as leaders that we bring the benefits of rest and creativity and risk-taking and well-being to the [00:54:00] roles that we had in philanthropy.”

References

(1) “Who We Are” Venture3Philanthropy. n.p., n.d., Web. 6 Sept. 2012. Found here

This profile was last updated: 01/09/2015