Lori O’Keefe to head Triangle Community Foundation

DURHAM, N.C. — Lori O’Keefe, vice president and chief operating officer for Triangle Community Foundation, has been named its president, effective Jan. 1, 2013.

A 20-year nonprofit veteran who joined the Foundation’s philanthropic services team in 2005, O’Keefe succeeds Phail Wynn Jr., who has served twice in the last year-and-a-half as interim president and CEO on a pro-bono basis.

“Lori is a consummate professional who has embraced our community, and is respected by donors and nonprofits,” Rick Guirlinger, chair of the Foundation’s board of directors, says in a statement. “Her abilities and experience make her well suited to guide the Foundation as we build on our strong legacy of philanthropic leadership to bring the community together in working to help fix our most urgent problems.”

O’Keefe says the Foundation has had a strong financial year and soon will launch an effort to bring together community leaders and organizations to identify critical needs and develop partnerships and resources to address them.

“The Triangle is blessed, but it also faces serious challenges,” O’Keefe says. “A top priority for the Foundation is to connect our donors, deploy our assets and address causes to help make our community a better place to live and work.  I am excited to lead the Foundation as we work to better serve our donors and make more strategic use of our resources to support nonprofits, which play an indispensable role in our region.”

A life-long devotee of the arts with a master’s degree in business administration specializing in arts and nonprofit administration, O’Keefe previously held positions in development and events management with the Carolina Ballet, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and New York University. She lives in Wake Forest with her husband and two young daughters.

“Lori is highly respected and deeply engaged in the Triangle area,” says Wynn, who is vice president for Durham and regional affairs at Duke University. “She has demonstrated an engaging and collaborative leadership style, which has proven effective in working with the community at large, the high-performing Foundation staff, and the Foundation’s donors and volunteer leaders.”

In May 2011, when he was serving as chair of the Foundation’s board, Wynn first was named interim president and CEO after the organization announced that Andrea Bazan was taking a sabbatical of indefinite length after six years as CEO.

Six weeks later, the Foundation announced she would not return.

In June, after a national search conducted by  Jorgenson Consulting in Greensboro, the Foundation named Mark Bensen, then executive vice president of MDC, a Durham-based national research group that focuses on economic and workforce development, as its new president and CEO, effective Aug. 13.

And in October, the Foundation announced Bensen had quit after two months on the job, and that Wynn would return as interim president and CEO.

Officials of the Foundation have declined to comment on the departures of Bazan and Bensen, saying it signed non-disclosure agreements with each of the two former CEOs.

Guirlinger, in a letter distributed October 5 to Foundation donors and friends, said the board and Bensen had recognized “early on” that they had “widely divergent visions for the Foundation, both in terms of strategy and implementation,” and that the board had “determined that it was in the best interests of the Foundation to accept Mark’s resignation.”

Wynn says O’Keefe was a finalist in the search that led to hiring Bensen.

“The board realized after he left that it did not need to do another search because we already had the leader we wanted,” he says.

Guirlinger says in a letter distributed this week to Foundation supporters that, in a “time of rapid change and great opportunity for our region,” and with the social sector facing many challenges, the Foundation “is well positioned to continue partnering with our donors to provide the resources to help nonproifts build their capacity to better serve people and places in need.”

Formed in 1983, the Foundation works with individuals and institutions to create and manage charitable funds that support a broad range of people and places in need, including specific causes its donors and funders care about.

It manages nearly $150 million in over 750 funds established by families, businesses, individuals and organizations, mainly for the benefit of Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties. And it makes grants from those funds to nonprofits and administers a broad range of programs to benefit the community.

In the fiscal year ended June 30, the Foundation received over $16 million in gifts, and granted over $13 million to nonprofits, schools and community efforts.

Todd Cohen

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