The Forbes Funds advances the well-being of our region by helping human service and community-based nonprofits build their management capacity and increase the impact of their mission work.
Envisioning the Pittsburgh region’s nonprofit sector as innovative, informed, engaged, and effective, The Forbes Funds advances capacity building within and among the region’s nonprofit organizations.
The Forbes Funds advances the well-being of our region by helping human service and community-based nonprofits build their management capacity and increase the impact of their mission work.
The Forbes Funds connects individuals and organizations dedicated to meaningful and transformative philanthropic efforts to the resources and capital they need for success. In our eyes, success is a dedication to transformation and the use of our community’s talent to impact the common good. We support causes that are closely aligned with our own mission, emphasizing close collaboration and community engagement.
At The Forbes Funds, we believe that no single entity has the ability to cure what ails the community and society at large. That is why we invest in collaborative efforts between change-driven social and human service organizations that are committed to making a difference. We value strategic engagement and collaboration, utilizing human-centered participatory design to provide actionable approaches that reflect the needs and wishes of our partners and peers.
In line with our mission to connect community leaders and organizations, coordination is one facet of the work we do at The Forbes Funds. We take an ecological approach to our network, assessing the deeply interwoven nature of societal problems, and the collective approaches require to improve or solve them.
Central to the work of The Forbes Funds is maintaining our notable core programs while embracing a forward-thinking perspective. We find new ways to leverage our long-standing partnerships and coordinate among partners, generating new relationships, sharing resources, and establishing methods to address challenges in the sector while exploring opportunities for continued growth.
Complex challenges require new and innovative approaches. Encountering challenges can be seen as a setback, but The Forbes Funds strives to turn speed bumps into on and off-ramps for success. Through our capacity-building efforts and programming, we have supported and continue to increase success with and for the region’s nonprofit organizations.
We believe in and support nonprofit leaders and organizations that take up a growth mindset. The collective impact of community organizations lies in their ability to adapt and convene to creatively and empathetically resonate with its members. Our wide array of programming and resources serves to strengthen leaders and organizations as they engage in this work in both the long and short term.
We provide nonprofits with resources, through grantmaking and cohorts, and learning forums to enable them to manage a disruptive event, reframe their thinking about a specific issue that impacts operations, and prepare for the future. Priority is given to human services and community development organizations in Allegheny County.
Accelerating the development of operating models and technological innovation to reduce expense and/or increase impact for our community nonprofit organizations.
Our Theory of Change
The Forbes Funds supports regional nonprofits both as individual organizations and as a unified coalition of leaders, funders, and advocates working collaboratively throughout southwestern Pennsylvania. We do this through our capacity building work: Management Assistance Grants (MAGs); Catalytic Community Cohorts (C3); and our Executive in Residence (EIR) programming. These activities support our broader theory of change that capacity building must consider a systems approach based on a collective impact framework to build an interconnected ecosystem that benefits all, especially those that are vulnerable and being left behind. The Forbes Funds’ goal is to not only improve organizational capacity but to ensure that the populations served by the organizations we support benefit as well.
The Forbes Funds strives to make services and resources to be more than just money. On a broader and deeper level, The Forbes Funds seeks to be a catalyst for strategic collaboration. Our theory is that no single organization can single-handedly solve all issues. Thus, creative genius and strategic relationships are the means for collective impact in the greater Pittsburgh area and beyond.
Working dynamically and organically with nonprofit organizations that align with our mission, vision, and values is paramount to grantmaking and impacting social determinants of health in meaningful ways.
Our Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP) is effectively a front door to the transformational core of our organization. In partnership with like-minded organizations who strive to better southwestern Pennsylvania, we forge ahead in innovative ways and build capacity to effectuate change.
“Today’s challenges require iterative and agile thinking followed by optimizing existing systems that evolve. We can’t make changes in the world until we change ourselves.”
– Fred Brown, President & CEO
Strategic engagement and collaboration
Creating engagement through partnering, participatory design that is human-centered. Community engagement and close collaboration is crucial. Seeking an outcomes-oriented, actionable approach to solutions–done in agreement with partners and peers.
Thoughtful and intentional method to convene, connect, and create strategic partnerships and coalition-building through shared understanding and objectives, in a strategically aligned manner, towards moving from transactional to transformational change and leadership.
Racial equity and equitable funding
A forward-thinking approach to philanthropic giving with equity as a priority.
Creating a space for equitable giving, racial equality, environmental justice, and inclusion for marginalized groups that is sustainable and accessible to all.
Ensuring access to those who need our help the most, demonstrating humility and continuously seeking inclusion to all.
Engaging the audience with resources that educate and empower, providing professional development, visioning sessions, and advocacy education.
Being forward-thinking, focused, and strategic, creating lasting partnerships amongst community organizations, the government, and the private sector.
Being a leader in the community and in a particular domain while possessing and and conveying thoughts and ideas in a transparent, honest, accountable, integrous, and caring manner.
Fostering collective community thought through community-centered leadership, making the community a better place for its residents.
Regeneration is the process of working at the grassroots level to explore the unique attributes of a community and recreate processes that cultivate innovation that is driven by the community; regeneration also explores the role of technology in its iteration and how the pivot produces regenerative action that grows continuity ownership through transformational leadership.
Regeneration restores balance at the micro, mezzo, macro, and global levels, creating an equilibrium that optimizes the capacity for independent systems to co-create ecosystems.
What we do
Leading transformations in western Pennsylvania’s nonprofit ecosystem by increasing effectiveness of individuals, groups, human service and community-based organizations in an inclusive, collaborative, and thoughtful manner.
Learning and Education
We support the continued growth and capacity-building of social sector professionals and organizations with learning and education programming.
Sustainability, accessibility, and inclusion, are at the heart of The Forbes Funds. An ongoing priority of ours is equitable funding, racial equity, environmental justice, and inclusivity for marginalized groups. Learn more.
Sustainable Community Development
We amplify the power of neighborhood nonprofits through a strengths-based approach. Learn more.
We award Management Assistance Grants (MAGs) to promote collaboratives of human service and community-based nonprofits building their capacity and increasing the impact of their mission work.
Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership
We provide public policy analysis, education, advocacy, and a portfolio of discounts on products and services that meet the current needs of individual members and the nonprofit sector as a whole. Learn more.
For every $1 invested into The Forbes Funds, we have invested $7 in capacity services into the sector.
Members, participating organizations, and partners
A growing coalition of over 500 nonprofit organizations, participating organizations, and partners leveraging our collective power, together. Last updated: 2/4/2022.
Since the pandemic, and in response to COVID-19, we have had many touchpoints through hosting Zoom sessions to support the health and wellbeing, and bolstering capacity of our communities and its leaders. Last updated: 11/28/2022.
Board of Directors
Scott Lammie, Board Member Emeritus
c/o UPMC Health Plan
The Pittsburgh Foundation
Dr. Ann Cudd
University of Pittsburgh
Bill Isler, Chair
c/o Fred Rogers Company
Eden Hall Foundation
Jason Jones, Treasurer
JS Jones & Still Consulting
Jonathan Brelsford, CFA, CAIA
The Pittsburgh Foundation
James E. Taylor, Ph.D., Vice Chair
Brian K. Parker, Board Member Emeritus
Fred Brown, MSW
President & CEO
Fred Brown is a thought-leader in innovation, capacity-building, and sustainable social development. He serves as the President & CEO of The Forbes Funds.
Olivia Benson, MS, MBA
Chief Operating Officer
Olivia Benson is the Chief Operating Officer of The Forbes Funds and Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership. She earned a BS in Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University, an MBA from Point Park University, and an MS in Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania.
Mary Jo Wise
Special Assistant & Community Liason
Mary Jo serves as a special assistant to CEO Fred Brown of The Forbes Funds. Additionally, she acts as a Community Liaison, utilizing her background with communications, marketing, and business development to support operations and facilitate meaningful connections.
Hannah Karolak, PhD
Chief Program Officer
Hannah Karolak is the chief program officer at The Forbes Funds. She leads learning & education programming, which includes The Forbes Funds University, Executive-in-Residence coaching program, nonprofit learning cohorts, and The Forbes Funds research & publications. Dr. Hannah empowers nonprofit leaders and works closely with organizations to strengthen their strategic communication and increase overall team capacity.
Emily Francis, MID
Sustainability & Social Impact Coordinator
Bri previous served in the AmeriCorps Executive Public Ally for 10 months at The Forbes Funds prior to being brought on as a Sustainability & Social Impact Coordinator. She supports The Forbes Funds and GPNP to connect the nonprofit community with vital resources as well as work collaboratively across the sector.
2023 Public Ally/Capacity Associate
Ashley “EL” Phillips (she/her/they) is a 2021 graduate of Duquesne University. EL is originally from Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and she studied communications and sociology. Everyone wants to be known for something, but EL wants to be known for being an individual, who stood for something and changed lives along the way. EL is a firm believer in the old saying “anything is possible” no matter how much time has passed.
Data and Social Impact Intern
Sonya is a Data and Social Impact Intern, currently studying for an MPhys in Applied Mathematics and Physics from the University of St Andrews. With a passion for using data to drive positive change, Sonya is excited to leverage data science to quantify social impact and contribute meaningful insights. Sonya aims to play a part in advancing data-driven approaches that foster societal transformations.
Anika Joshi is a rising sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University and is currently pursuing a bachelors in Statistics and Machine Learning. She is passionate about supporting the community through data. One goal I have for the summer is to analyze a dataset and create a visualization/storyboard from the data.
Aidan McIndoe is a rising sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University, where he is earning a BS in Economics and Statistics. His work with nonprofit organizations includes research, program development, and operations. Aidan hails from Washington, DC, and he is bilingual in English and French. Some of his favorite things are trading jokes, playing cards, bonding with his dog, and trying new restaurants.
2023 AmeriCorps Public Ally
Tariq is a 2023 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in political science and a minor in history. Tariq is originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee and has worked many different summer programs focused on youth development. His aspirations are to learn more about the community and become an asset within it. Through training with Public Allies and experiences moving forward Tariq plans to reach his goals.
We have no open positions at this time.
You can still email firstname.lastname@example.org with your CV.
The goal of the Advisory Council is to convene leaders and experts to form a collaborative network of providers. In line with The Forbes Funds Theory of Change, the Advisory Council reflects the value and promotion of cross-sectoral partnerships.
The Advisory Council is a braintrust and 200+ person think tank with 50 subcommittees that harnesses the opportunity to convene council Members that provide services in the same field to work together toward a common goal. Within this council, there is also space to share potential funding opportunities and support catalytic and collaborative projects. To that end, the council highlights forward-thinking collaborative efforts across the region and beyond.
Our work moving forward includes activating, honing, and amplifying the engagement of our trusted partners. As The Forbes Funds forges its identity as a regional and national leader, the importance of relationships only continues to grow. Learn more about our impact, approach, and fill out the form below to express your interest in being considered to join The Forbes Funds Advisory Council.
Registration form and details forthcoming upon announcement.
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
- Capacity Building,
- Social Innovation, and
- 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.
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.
“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, President & CEO
"I am thankful for all the work being done to support the nonprofit sector.”