Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust President Karen McNeil-Miller to Join Colorado Health Foundation as CEO

"Karen McNeil-Miller, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, today announced plans to join the Denver-based Colorado Health Foundation as President & CEO.  Under her 11-year leadership, the Trust evolved into a strategic, impact-driven foundation with a national presence on issues ranging from rural health to access to care. McNeil-Miller will step down in August 2015. Allen Smart, vice president of programs, will serve as interim president while Wells Fargo, sole trustee of the foundation, leads the search for the Trust’s next president.

“Karen’s outstanding vision and leadership are shaping how, why and where the Trust invests for years to come,” said Sandra Shell, senior vice president and chief operating officer, Philanthropic Services, Wells Fargo. “Karen joined the Trust at a time that its work needed focus and creative thinking, and Karen delivered. Thanks to her leadership, the Trust is making smarter, more thoughtful investments in communities with an eye on long-term impact.”

McNeil-Miller joined the Trust in January 2004 when the Trust, one of the state’s largest private foundations, invested in programs and projects in Forsyth County and across the state on an as-needed basis. The Trust had long employed a traditional “charity model” of philanthropy, which resulted in grants to organizations doing good work. However, these investments did not always prove sustainable or demonstrate long-term impact in the communities the Trust aims to help. When McNeil-Miller came on board, she began guiding the Trust to narrow its focus, spend more time in communities, and become more strategic regarding its investments.  

“Today is bittersweet as I announce my decision to leave the Trust,” said McNeil-Miller. “North Carolina is my home, and it has been an honor to serve as president of a statewide foundation that helps so many residents through its work. Leading the Trust on a strategic journey over the past decade to re-envision our work and ensure we’re impacting communities beyond cutting a check has been a great privilege.”

Among McNeil-Miller’s most significant contributions is leading the Trust to embrace a vision of long-term, significant investments in rural North Carolina, an often-overlooked area of the state. Under her leadership, the Trust developed and launched Healthy Places NC—a decade-long, $100 million initiative to improve the health of 10 to 12 of the state’s low-income, rural communities. The Trust’s health improvement work in rural communities, as well as its work to help residents access health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, has garnered national attention from philanthropic peers, the Federal Office of Rural Health and health care leaders. 

McNeil-Miller also developed the Trust’s long-term $30 million initiative—Great Expectations—to invest in Forsyth County’s financially disadvantaged children to ensure they are successful in life and school. Already underway, the Trust plans to announce a detailed strategy and next steps for Great Expectations this summer. A former teacher and principal, McNeil-Miller pushed for increased investments in education, stemming from her belief that a robust early childhood education program can help close the gap in access to opportunity experienced by so many Forsyth County children.

Other significant achievements under McNeil-Miller’s leadership:
  • Expansion of Federally Qualified Health Clinics throughout the state to ensure financially disadvantaged residents, especially those in rural areas, can access quality health care.
  • Rallying local funders when a computer glitch resulted in hundreds of local families unable to access food assistance. The partnership spawned a new coalition of local food funders to examine better ways to provide food to families in need.
  • Establishment of the “Second Wind” initiative during the economic downturn to provide basic operating funds to community organizations with small budgets in Forsyth County. The assistance allowed local organizations to continue providing services to low-income residents when many funding sources dried up.
  • Major capital improvements locally at Family Services, Samaritan Ministries and Winston-Salem State University, as well as across the state at rural playgrounds, schools and community centers.
  • Critical changes to the Trust’s grantmaking process and internal structure resulting in more thoughtful, efficient investing. These changes included the establishment of general operating support grants to statewide groups, multi-year grantmaking, electronic applications, and internal systems that led to more rigorous review of grant proposals by staff.
  • Increased presence of Trust leadership and staff on state and national boards, workgroups and advisory councils. 
Prior to joining the Trust, McNeil-Miller spent 16 years with the Center for Creative Leadership, an international leadership development and research, nonprofit organization in Greensboro, N.C. She is a former special education teacher and Head of the Piedmont School, an independent school for children with learning differences. She is active within the nonprofit community serving as a board member for many organizations, including Forsyth Futures, NC Center for Public Policy Research and Southeastern Council on Foundations. 

“We wish Karen the best in her future work. North Carolina’s loss is Colorado’s gain,” said Shell. “The Trust remains committed to the strategic direction Karen envisioned and we look forward to continuing the thoughtful, community-based work Karen and our staff believe is vital to the long-term health of North Carolina communities.” 

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina. Its mission is to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina. The Poor and Needy Division responds to basic life needs and invests in solutions that improve the quality of life and health for financially needy residents of Forsyth County. The Health Care Division promotes wellness statewide by investing in prevention and treatment. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. serves as sole trustee."

- A Press Release

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