“The life of a foundation is very much like our tribal canoe journeys. How nice it would be to simply go from point A to point B.” So spoke Jim Thomas, Tlingit, President of Potlatch Fund as he announced shifting roles at Potlatch Fund.
“The joy of the journey is that it takes place from sunrise to sunset. Along the way, tribes wait with excitement as canoes come ashore for rest, the merriment of visits and the sharing of tribal traditions and cultures. And then the journey continues.”
Ken Gordon, Executive Director has been planner, puller and leader, with a small professional staff in a beautiful canoe known as Potlatch Fund. He has been an inspiring teacher of Non-Profit Development workshops in the Pacific Northwest for tribes and tribal members; he has been at the forefront of fund raising, all the while balancing operational costs with gifts and grants from private and corporate sponsors (givers). As the contract with Mr. Gordon approaches its last 18 months, the board of directors has requested that Ken focus most of his attention on the strategic plan for the long growth of the Potlatch Fund so that it can effectively serve the American Indian/Alaska Native Tribes and Tribal people in its region. In order to accomplish this, Gordon has redefined roles to strengthen fund raising and operations as he plans the future and along with Board Members, and the direction of the Director of Development, reaches out to foundations for greater financial support.
For the last four years Lawrence Leake has been the solid administrator at Potlatch Fund who has made sure that the bills are paid, that our communications are solid and that our events are well run. His role at Potlatch Fund has increasingly focused on fundraising, development and events; over this time he has been personally responsible for bringing in over $1m to support Potlatch Fund’s work.
The slow evolution of roles has now been formalized with Mr. Leake transferring to become Potlatch Fund’s Director of Development and Communication.
Obviously Mr. Leake’s switch to this new role has left a major gap in the organization. This gap has been filled by Kelly Gemmell, a Suquamish Tribal member. Potlatch Fund’s President, Jim Thomas said “we are excited to have Ms. Gemmell starting with us. She is outgoing, responsive, has a deep cultural connection and is committed to the development of Indian Country and is also committed to the preservation of the environment.”
During the 2009 InterTribal Family Canoe Journey Ms. Gemmell led a team of volunteers to both minimize waste associated with the event, to capture all recyclables out of the waste stream and to maximize composting.
Ms. Gemmell is also a graduate of the Leadership Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Development Program (LEAD) that is run by Potlatch Fund through a grant received from the First Nations Development Institute. Too date, 18 Native people have graduated from this program and Ms. Gemmell will be the second graduate of the program to join Potlatch Fund’s staff.
“For a small Native organization succession planning is very hard. The LEAD program is starting to become a pipeline for us to meet, groom and recruit Native talent to aid Potlatch Fund’s mission. Ms Gemmell’s appointment shows that we can grow our own Native talent for these important roles” Mr. Thomas said.
The Potlatch Fund mission is to inspire the Native tradition of giving and to expand philanthropy in Indian Country. This work is undertaken through direct Technical Assistance provided to Native non-profits and to Tribes. Potlatch Fund also runs a granting program in support of its work with close to $200,000 being granted out to Native communities in 2009.
The confirmation of Mr. Leake as the Director of Development and Communications and the skills that Ms. Gemmell can bring in support of these efforts will enable Potlatch Fund to continue to grow its work and its impact during these difficult economic times.
The Board of Directors of Potlatch has also taken on new life as new and highly experienced business, educational and social leaders have joined. The new Board Members are Tim Otani, Mike Roberts, Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy and Olney Patt Jr.
For more information please contact:
Jim Thomas (360) 961 4429
Ken Gordon (206) 624 6076