Jenkins leadership: Insights from outgoing chair Jane Peters & incoming chair Myra Goodman Smith

As 2020 comes to a close, the Jenkins Foundation thanks Jane Peters for her invaluable service as chair of the board, providing guidance during an unprecedented year for public health. The Foundation also welcomes Myra Goodman Smith, a 2020 Richmond Times Dispatch Person of the Year honoree and recipient of a YWCA 2020 Outstanding Women’s Award, as incoming chair. Here, Jane reflects on her time as chair and Myra shares her thoughts on what’s to come.

What’s one aspect of health that you think more people should know about?

Jane: One of the things I’ve continued to learn about is the importance of children’s mental health, and especially mental health services in schools. We need to have more services that support children who are going through difficult things, and we need to find ways to meet kids where they already are so that their families don’t have to worry about coordinating appointments and transportation. One of the organizations that does this work locally is ChildSavers, and I’m so glad we’ve been able to support them. Physical health as an adult is significantly affected by childhood trauma, and there’s a great book called The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris that goes into this subject.

What’s one of the ways that the new Strategic Plan has shaped the work of the Jenkins Foundation?

Jane: Our strategic plan has helped us narrow our focus. Instead of trying to solve every health-related problem, we’re now focused on three areas: access to health care, mental health, and substance use disorder treatment and prevention. We’ve had a lot of learning events centered around these three topics which I’ve found helpful as someone who’s not a health professional. By focusing our grantmaking this way, we can make a larger impact with our grantmaking and make sure that we’re not spreading ourselves too thin. It has been a great honor for me to work alongside such a forward-thinking group of women on these important issues for our community.



What do you anticipate will be the main priorities for the Jenkins Foundation during your term as chair?

Myra: I am so grateful to Jane for her leadership —it has been a joy and a pleasure to work with the board, and I am honored by the opportunity to serve in this role.  One of our main priorities will be continuing to follow our strategic plans and looking at our work with an equity lens. I believe in continuous learning, and we need to increase our understanding about health disparities in our community, their root causes and how they should be addressed.

The events of this year, including the pandemic and the racial justice movement, have brought to the forefront the importance of addressing health inequities. We need to fund programs, but we also need to help change systems. A lot of foundations are beginning to discuss what their role in advocacy should be and I’m interested in the board exploring what that could look like for us while staying true to our mission and purpose.

What must philanthropy do to have the greatest possible impact with its share of dollars and influence?

Myra: From a foundation perspective, philanthropy can make the greatest impact when it understands and wisely uses the levels of influence that they have.  I agree with Jim Joseph, the former president of the Council on Foundations, who was quoted in saying that “foundations have five forms of capital that they can use to get things done. Of those five, only one relates to the money they give away. The other forms of capital – social, intellectual, moral, and reputational – relate to the power foundations have to share knowledge, to partner, and inspire other institutions and individuals to act.”