Retirement Letter from Juanita T. James, President & CEO

Mar 16, 2022

Read More: Briggs Tobin, Chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, outlines the process for recruiting the Foundation’s next President and CEO.

Dear Friends and Colleagues of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation:

I am writing to let you know that I have decided to retire from my role as President and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and move on to the next chapter of my life.

My retirement is not immediate. I will continue in my role until October as we search for my successor, with the goal of ensuring a seamless transition. To that end, the Board of Directors has formed a search committee and retained Phillips Oppenheim to lead the search, which is already underway.

I have been contemplating this change for quite a while and I believe it is the right time for me to take the next step in slowing down my pace from 100 mph to perhaps 80 mph and for the Foundation to commence its own next dynamic chapter.

I want to express my gratitude to the staff and Board for their incredible support as we have worked to transform FCCF. When I came to the Foundation in 2011, we had approximately $150 million in assets, just over 20 staff (including only 2 men, few people of color, no development or operations department and a grant process managed primarily by a small team and volunteers).

The Foundation looks much different today. Our assets now total nearly $275 million. We are a staff of over 30, diverse in generation, gender, race, and ethnicity and with deep subject matter expertise in all functions and departments.

These achievements would not have happened without your support and input. Shortly after I began my tenure, we conducted a nine-month landscape overview that solicited input from nearly 1,000 constituents from all sectors about the most pressing needs in Fairfield County and where FCCF could have the greatest impact. This led to the creation of FCCF’s first strategic plan — and a commitment to community leadership and impact. It also articulated our mission and vision for a county where everyone has the opportunity to be successful and our tagline “Together We Thrive”.

As I reflect on the past 10½ years in my role, there is so much that brings me joy. Together, we

• granted more than $200 million.

• formed partnerships and collaborations with other foundations and nonprofit organizations including supporting the launch of Social Venture Partners Connecticut, Fairfield County’s Center for Housing Opportunity, and the Fairfield County Business Collaborative for Education Equity.

• fueled the tremendous growth of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence.

• replicated our successful Fund for Women & Girls’ Family Economic Security Program (FESP) to both Housatonic and Gateway Community Colleges after its pilot at Norwalk Community College.

• hosted cross-sector forums and convenings.

• launched pioneering initiatives such as Thrive by 25 and the Fairfield County Community Well Being Index with our partner Data Haven.

And, of course, we launched Fairfield County’s Giving Day, the region-wide effort that democratizes philanthropy and energizes members from every part of our community to demonstrate the power of collective giving to support our nonprofits.

It has been an honor to work with and learn from committed and enthusiastic staff and colleagues over the years. I am appreciative beyond measure to the grantee partners, community organizations and leaders, philanthropy colleagues, public officials and private business partners for enriching my efforts. They have been inspirational allies in upholding the Foundation’s mission and core values.

I am grateful for the continued wise counsel and supportive leadership of my Board members. These individuals give selfless service to the Foundation, including during challenging times. They have been partners with me and my talented staff in ensuring that the organizational mission always guided the Foundation’s philanthropy, programming, and leadership in the community. Finally, I am eternally thankful for my family for their love and support.

It has been a blessing and a privilege to be part of the Foundation, and it will continue to hold a special place in my heart. Thank you all for the special roles you have played during my tenure and for your many kindnesses. May you continue to embody our belief that “Together We Thrive.”