Bringing the Next Decade Blog to a close…

4 01 2011

As 2011 begins, this Next Decade Blog comes to a close.

Throughout 2010, I talked one-on-one to well over 100 individuals about the future of philanthropy and the future of The Denver Foundation. I have heard hundreds of insightful ideas and suggestions.

At this point, I feel a bit overwhelmed. I plan to spend a considerable amount of time thinking about, organizing, and synthesizing what I have heard. All of the work of the Next Decade Project will then feed into The Denver Foundation’s new Strategic Plan.

In January, The Denver Foundation will begin a new Strategic Planning process. An important part of that process will be a Listening Campaign that will include many opportunities for public input.

The next Denver Foundation Strategic Plan is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2011, with implementation to commence in January, 2012.

I am enormously grateful to everyone who helped with and participated in the Next Decade Project this past year. I wish all of you a happy, healthy, and fulfilling New Year – and decade!

— David Miller, President and CEO, The Denver Foundation

Next Decade readers: Please note that The Denver Foundation will be looking at other usages of blogs inthe future. In the meantime, please consider signing up for our RSS feed at


In Support of Our Veterans

18 06 2010

I have just finished reading David Halberstam’s book about the Korean War, The Coldest Winter, and I am feeling very guilty.  Millions of people have gone to war and fought for our country and we – I – haven’t done enough for them.

Americans almost unanimously accepted the need to defend our country in World War II.  Veterans from that war came home as heroes.  Few of them, however, felt comfortable talking about the mental traumas they had experienced.
The Korean War in the 1950s is almost a forgotten war today.  Halberstam said, “Korea became something of a black hole in terms of history.”  After reading Halberstam’s book, I am making an effort to learn more about the Korean War.  I am talking to veterans of Korea, such as civic and business leader Dick Robinson, to learn about their experiences.

Years after the Korean War, many veterans of the Vietnam War came home to scorn and ridicule because of the war’s unpopularity.  Americans my age and younger have all avoided compulsory military service because the draft hasn’t been active.  I don’t think any of us can fully appreciate the anxiety and the responsibility that comes with being drafted.

And now we come to today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Because of improved medical treatment and technology, many who would have died in the past are surviving injuries sustained in war.  Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently spoke at a conference in Denver.  Admiral Mullen said that every soldier who has seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan has experienced trauma and every one of them will experience some sort of post traumatic stress.

Some shocking statistics from the Pew Research Center demonstrate that the burden of fighting for our country is falling on a smaller and smaller segment of the population.  When males in the “Silent Generation” (those born before 1945) were ages 18 to 28, 24% of them had veteran status.  When Baby Boomers were that age, 13% of them were veterans.  When members of Generation X were that age, only 6% were veterans.  And, today, those that age are only 2% veterans.

An even more stark way to look at the numbers is veteran status among males today.  For those aged 64 and older today, 53% are veterans.  For those aged 45-63, 20% are veterans.  For those aged 29-44, 8% are veterans.  And for those aged 18-28, 2% are veterans.

The burdens of military service today also fall disproportionately upon disadvantaged groups.  The proportions of African-Americans, Latinos, immigrants, and low income people in the military are substantially greater than their proportions in the general population.  An appalling report from the Pentagon stated that 30% of all women in the military have suffered sexual abuse.  And, gays and lesbians in the military must still choose between coerced silence and discharge.

In his speech, Admiral Mullen listed a wide variety of needs that returning veterans face.  These include education, training, and good medical care.  They also include assistance in fighting homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse.  These are all services that many foundations, including The Denver Foundation, are already helping to provide.

Another serious concern for our society is the families of veterans.  Admiral Mullen pointed out that a 10-year-old child in 2001 whose parent is in the military might have barely seen that parent in the last 10 years.  That child is now old enough to go to college.  This phenomenon is because both the duration and the number of tours of duty have increased during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Some foundations are already working to help families of veterans as well as the veterans themselves.  The Fisher Foundation has built nearly 50 “Fisher Houses” around the country; these are a home away from home for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers.  The Lewis E. Myers Caregivers Fund at The Denver Foundation provides the spouses, parents, and other unpaid caregivers of wounded military personnel with financial assistance, helping with rent, utilities, mortgage payments, car payments, food, and other immediate needs.

All of us should think about reaching out to our veterans and their families and finding out what their challenges are.  All of us should think about what more we can do to help our veterans and their families.


15 02 2010

Welcome to The Denver Foundation’s Next Decade Blog.  As we enter a new decade, the Board and staff of The Denver Foundation are thinking about where we want to take the Foundation in the next 10 years.  As part of this process, we very much want your input and suggestions.

We’re going to spend all of this year (2010) gathering advice about the future of The Denver Foundation and our community.  Our strategic planning process that begins in 2011 will be informed by what we learn this year.  Of course, we won’t wait to implement great ideas we hear along the way.

As part of this process, I am spending some of my time talking to creative and interesting people from various walks of life who might have unique perspectives on community needs and philanthropy. 

For example, one of the first people I have arranged to talk to is Peter Goldmark.  Peter’s fascinating career includes being head of the New York Port Authority, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Publisher of the International Herald Tribune.  Peter is currently a leader at the Environmental Defense Fund.  In 1998, Peter Goldmark was the keynote speaker at the Conference of Community Foundations.  At a time when we were concerned about crime and education, Peter said the biggest issue facing community foundations was international terrorism.  This was three years before 9/11!  I have no doubt that Peter will be full of other thought-provoking wisdom regarding the future.

I am accumulating a list of people like Peter Goldmark to try to meet with this year.  The list includes clergy, artists, nonprofit leaders, social entrepreneurs, business leaders, and professors.  Among those on the list are Warren Buffett, Al Gore, Melinda Gates, George Soros, and Bono.

Here are my questions for you: 

  1. Tell us where you think The Denver Foundation should go in the next 10 years.  What are the biggest issues our community will face – and how can we help?
  2. As I meet with interesting people around the country, what questions should I ask these people about the future?
  3. Who are some other interesting people around the country that we should consider consulting?  (And, if you have any connections with any of the five people mentioned above, please let us know.)

 Thank you for participating in this project.  We hope you’ll keep checking back throughout the year.