TITLE: Executive Director
FUNDING AREAS: Film, documentaries, "creative media projects"
IP TAKE: Leddy plays an important role in developing grant guidelines and reviewing projects for The Fledgling Fund. She's strongly committed and works closely with the small staff at the fund to optimize the impact the organization can have in their mission.
PROFILE: Sheila Leddy is the Executive Director of The Fledgling Fund. Leddy has worked with the fund since its founding, where she's been integral to the development of the organization's overall strategy, collaborating with President and Founder Diana Barrett and their Board of Directors. She plays a key leadership role in "developing grant guidelines, reviewing and developing projects, and assessing their potential to advance Fledgling’s mission."
In 2008, Leddy co-authored, Assessing Creative Media’s Social Impact, a paper presented by The Fledgling Fund that laid out a "framework, drawn from a combination of case studies, interviews and other research," which they used to help pave the way forward for how the organization would approach their funding and assess its impact in creative media.
The Fledgling Fund's ethos is that film can "inspire a better world," and their goal is to do this by supporting innovative media projects that address social ills and effect some sort of positive, tangible change. They do this through their own funding and through partnerships with other foundations. Grants typically range anywhere from $300 to $50,000, but average around $10,000 to $35,000, and funds are meant to be used throughout the course of the project, not just for funding for the film or media project alone, but also for support of the cause behind it.
"Many of us in philanthropy are focused on trying to solve entrenched and complex problems within our local communities and beyond," explains Leddy. "At The Fledgling Fund, we believe that storytelling through film can be a powerful tool to engage audiences. A film, and the story it tells, can create a greater awareness of complex problems, and just as importantly it can highlight possible solutions... When these films and stories are coupled with a strategy or campaign that provides clear opportunities for audiences to get involved, we see results."
Leddy and the small staff at the fund look to forge relationships with each project that extend past the typical grantmaker/grantee relationship. They commonly spend anywhere from a year to five years with each project, sometimes from gestation to helping form a movement around a specific project. Their grantmaking model is based around a venture capital apporach to funding and they seek to foster active engagement around each project to raise awareness beyond just the distribution of each film.
Ever eager to broaden The Fledgling Fund's reach, Leddy is constantly in search of projects that cover new subjects that deserve attention. "I am always learning about new issues and how seemingly distant policy decisions play out in the lives of individuals and communities," says Leddy. "I also have the opportunity to work with and learn from so many people who are committed to social justice—from my colleagues to our grantees to others who work and support the field. They inspire me to do more."
Leddy is a member of the Association of Small Foundation’s Impact Working Group and, prior to Fledging, she was a senior associate with The Crimson Group, a firm that "provided customized management education programs for physician leaders and senior managers of large healthcare organizations." Leddy has an MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management and a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame. She also serves on the board of the Milton Foundation for Education.
A list of past films that The Fledgling Fund has supported can be viewed here.