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Profile: Jennifer Leonard

Jennifer Leonard

Jennifer Leonard

This story appeared in the RBJ’s commemorative 30th Anniversary section. See more content related to the RBJ’s anniversary here.

As president and CEO of Rochester Area Community Foundation, Jennifer Leonard has made an impact on the Rochester-area community.

As the leader of the Community Foundation, Leonard guides a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting community needs and carrying out the wishes of its donors, often over the course of multiple generations. Last year, it awarded 6,000 grants totaling $28 million.

She has led the Community Foundation since 1993; since then, the foundation has grown more than six-fold. Before moving to Rochester, she served as a national writer and consultant in philanthropy and as vice president of the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles.

Celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2017, the foundation serves an eight-county region, from Genesee and Orleans counties in the west to Seneca and Wayne counties in the east.

“Our mission is to engage philanthropists from every walk of life and community partners to create a better region,” Leonard told the Rochester Business Journal, “and our vision is to lead, inspire and support positive, enduring change in our region.”

It is the largest grant-making foundation in the region. Under its umbrella are more than 1,250 individual funds designated for general use or more specific purposes outlined by donors.

Many local philanthropists opt to have their donations overseen by the Community Foundation rather than creating and managing their own foundations. They can take advantage of a donor-advised fund at the Community Foundation, which is similar to those offered by companies such as Fidelity Investments or the Vanguard Group.

The foundation has two main goals for discretionary grant-making. First, it seeks to create an equitable community by supporting efforts to improve race relations, close educational achievement and opportunity gaps and help pull people out of poverty. Second, it desires to strengthen the region’s vitality by advancing arts and culture, historical preservation and successful aging initiatives.

It stewards the community’s assets, now totaling $432 million as early 2017, and is thriving under Leonard’s leadership. Since 1990, the Community Foundation earned on average 9.1 percent net of fees on its invested endowments.

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