Donna Frisby-Greenwood, Knight Foundation

TITLE:Program Director/Philadelphia

FUNDING AREAS: Arts, government transparency, journalism, and media

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Anything you want to get done in Philadelphia at the Knight Foundation will have to go through Frisby-Greenwood.

PROFILE: Donna Frisby-Greenwood is thrilled to do her job as the program director at the Knight Foundation for all things Philly related. “I’ve spent most of my career running nonprofits and having to raise money,” says Greenwood.  “One of the things I really love about this is that I get to share my knowledge with our grantees.”

At Knight, Frisby-Greenwood oversees programs such as the Philly contingent of the $9 million Knight Arts Challenge Initiative, the John S. and James L. Knight Green Jobs Training Center, and Knight's development on the Ben Franklin Parkway: a co-project in which it collaborates with Pew Charitable Trusts.

Even before joining with Knight in 2010, Frisby-Greenwood was a real mover and shaker. She established and then ran the Philadelphia school district’s Office of College and Career Awareness. She rocked at Rock the Vote as their Executive Director and  part of the team that created the country's first online voter registration drive.  She oversaw the Inner-City Games Philadelphia as their executive director too. And she was founder and executive director of Children First, Inc.

If that doesn't give her enough bona fides to oversee passing out Knight dough, consider this: She serves on the board of the Afro-One Dance Company and she's a member of Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success. An Eisenhower and National Urban Fellow, she received the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Community College of Philadelphia, as well as the Forum Award from the Forum of Executive Women.

Before she got started in all this community motivation and received these accolates, Frisby-Greenwood got her bachelor’s in English from the University of Virginia and a master’s in public administration from Baruch College.

Frisby-Greenwood speaks passionately about providing support to Philadelphia programs, and by extension, the city itself. In a recent blog post on the foundation's own website, Frisby-Greenwood wrote:

"For Philadelphia to be competitive and to achieve substantial economic growth we must attract, harness and grow talent. We must boost opportunity and entrepreneurship and support economic mobility for all of our city’s residents, for the sake of this place, our place."

Frisby-Greenwood is also committed to breaking down the barriers that marginalized but talented and visionary individuals often face in receiving funding. As an equalizer, she is credited with bringing the Knight Foundation's Challenge Grants to her city, including one Knight Art Challenge and the Black Male Engagement Project. "We’ve made it very simple,” she says.  “We didn’t ask who you were, we didn’t ask about your background, all you had to do is describe what you wanted to do.” (She speaks eloquently on this subject as well as the scope of her foundation work in the CBS Philly affiliate interview at the bottom of this page.)

In another video below, Frisby-Greenwood explains below how Knight uses art to "promote informed and engaged communities: places where democracy thrives, where people have access to information and use that information to act on their own behalf." But what does this look like in practice?

Knight's Arts Challenge "draw[s] the best and most innovative ideas out of local organizations and individuals seeking to transform the community through the arts," she says. "Whether you're an independent artist, business, established arts institution, organization, or individual—we want to hear from you." Frisby-Greenwood discusses the 2013 winners here; the article includes a list of 69 finalists. Like the other Open Challenges at Knight, the application process is short and sweet: 150 words in a message to Frisby-Greenwood.

Frisby-Greenwood also oversees Knight's grantmaking to The Notebook, a previous Knight Open Challenge winner. The money from Knight helps this non-profit news outlet, which covers the city's public school system, to broaden the variety of media on which it publishes. Knight also helps The Notebook explore "ways to increase revenue as its audience grows, whether through membership or fundraising."

Frisby-Greenwood was once named by Essence Magazine as one of Fifty Women to Watch. No doubt as to why.


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