About Us

Leading transformations in western Pennsylvania’s nonprofit ecosystem by increasing effectiveness of individuals, groups, and human service and community-based organizations in an inclusive, collaborative, and thoughtful manner.


The Forbes Funds witnessed tremendous growth in 2019. We brought on new staff, reengaged with communities and community organizations, and aligned a global framework for development with local work that continues to drive our sector.

In 2019, The Forbes Funds worked with more than 500 nonprofit organizations through more than 1,000 interactions in our four core programs—Management Assistance Grants, Executive in Residence, Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, and Catalytic Community Cohorts.

Of particular importance, in December, The Forbes Funds hosted more than 950 nonprofit leaders and professionals at the biannual GPNP Summit. This number represents nearly half of the current nonprofit organizations in Allegheny County and close to 40% of the 10-county region’s nonprofit sector. Read more in our 2019 Annual Report.

When Fred came on, he launched a 100-day listening tour to bring nonprofit and community leaders together and to encourage collaboration, better sharing and use of data, and make sure inclusion and equity complement the rise of regional innovation.

“The results of our work are better because of a shared vision. We’re all moving forward in disparate ways to solve common issues.” – Fred Brown, CEO

In 2018, we welcomed long-time nonprofit capacity builder and innovator Fred Brown as the President and CEO of The Forbes Funds. Under Fred’s leadership, the Forbes Funds is working to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of our mission in the 21st century, by expanding the depth and breadth of our work to innovatively address challenges and actively seize opportunities.

Building upon our successful foundation, in 2013 we redefined our focus to concentrate on three complementary activities which now comprise the core of our work.

Building, Convening, and Capacity

  1. Capacity Building,
  2. Social Innovation, and
  3. Unity of the sector through the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership – to respond to the critical and contemporary needs of the nonprofit sector.

The Forbes Funds, under this new frame of operating, worked on New Operating Models for Healthcare: I-Count In June 2013, where we assembled 25 leading agency executives, representing a microcosm of Allegheny County’s primary care, behavioral health and human service providers. On May 23, 2013, The Forbes Funds also hosted the GPNP Summit ‘From Ideas to Action’, hosting more than 800 professionals.

In 2008, The Forbes Funds, with four full-time staff and an annual budget of $1.2 million, celebrates 25-years in providing a decisive difference to the region’s nonprofits, helping them behave like sound businesses while also achieving their missions.

The Forbes Funds has become one of the key agencies in building and sustaining one of Greater Pittsburgh’s most vibrant areas: the nonprofit sector.

Back in 1982, Elmer J. Tropman saw a need for an agency that would help nonprofits when emergencies arose. A widely respected leader in the nonprofit sector as head of the Health and Welfare Planning Association, Tropman had developed a keen understanding of the challenges that small agencies, in particular, faced in their operations. He knew the trends and had a unique ability to convene key players to respond to what lay ahead. He started The Forbes Funds, which set to work helping provide a place for small nonprofits to turn when, for instance, the roof blew off their building or their hot water heater broke. What began as a provider of short-term assistance, however, soon evolved into helping nonprofits in a variety of ways, including keeping their services going when an agency had to face the reality of ceasing operations with dignity.

In 2005, The Forbes Funds created the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP).

Started in 2004 and formalized in 2005, GPNP began to address the increasing concern that the nonprofit sector was not connected with then-current charitable tax discussions across the state.

“As a membership organization, the partnership will provide an opportunity to advocate collectively on big issues facing us like state budgets and charity regulation. It can also educate the community broadly about the importance of charity in our lives, both giving and volunteering.” Gregg Behr, Former President, The Forbes Funds

Beginning in 1996, The Forbes Funds advanced efforts to support management capacity building and strategic planning, while also addressing such sector-wide issues as inter-agency partnerships and mergers.

Given the rapid changes in the nonprofit sector and the tumultuous economic environment in which each nonprofit organization must navigate, the work of The Forbes Funds continued to be more relevant than ever.

Community leaders reviewed The Forbes Fund during a Special Review Committee on November 21, 1988 to be sure it was still relevant.

The Forbes Fund expanded a limited management service that was offered, with emphasis and resources to focus on efficient and effective management, alongside continued emergency funding.

In one of two studies by Georgine Scarpino, Ph.D., a report showed that from July 1982 to March 1988, The Forbes Fund received 266 inquiries within Allegheny County for 134 approved agencies in the sum of $2,749,534. The types of problems went beyond merely government cutbacks, and included mergers, need for venture capital, agency reorganization, poor or questionable management, and more. A recommendation was made to continue emergency financial assistance for another three years, but also to extend its management services, with increased emphasis and resources moved to focus on efficient and effective management, alongside continued emergency funding.

The mission was broadened to include unexpected financial problems due to other causes (beyond government cutbacks).

On the three-year mark of its existence in 1985, following an evaluation by Dr. Ed Ricci of The University of Pittsburgh, The Forbes Fund was extended another three years.

It was with the understanding that The Forbes Fund would terminate after the three-year extension. If any of its services should be continued, it was imagined other appropriate auspices among existing agencies should be found to provide them.

The late Elmer J. Tropman, informed by his retired father of the problems agencies suffering from abrupt changes in government funding, alongside The Pittsburgh Foundation and Heinz Endowments, had founded what is now known as The Forbes Funds, in 1982.

Intitially, it was envisaged as a three-year emergency fund, The Forbes Fund, helping temporarily support agencies that had their funding cut by policies of the Reagan administration.

The Forbes Fund provided emergency financial assistance to nonprofit organizations experiencing funding interruptions or short-term cash flow problems. It was not intended to replace federal dollars on an equal basis, rather lessen the impact of government reductions in funding to critical human services. The Forbes Fund started with a total of $1M for emergency grants and loans and $50K for start-up administrative costs. Under the leadership of founding director, Elmer J. Tropman, The Forbes Funds also conducted regional research to identify unmet needs in the human services sector.


C3 program roundtable with braddock and Dr. Hannah Karolak

A huge thank you to our funders and partners.

Pittsburgh Foundation
Corporate sponsor logo: UPMC
bny mellon foundation of SW PA
Henry L. Hillman Foundation
The Buhl Foundation
Grable Foundation
Community Foundation of Westmoreland County
JPM Foundation
FNB Logo
Benter Foundation
Poise Foundation

Garfield Foundation

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