President's Message: Leaving the Endowment

After 16 years as the President and CEO of the John Rex Endowment, I have made the decision to retire.  I will move on in the next few months after my successor has been identified.

As I’ve carefully considered this move to the next phase of my life, I’ve benefited from conversations with close friends, advisors, and family. I appreciate the support they provided and the clarity I gained. Not only is this the right time for me to personally shift gears, but I’m also convinced the timing works well for a leadership change at the Endowment - for a number of reasons.

Firstly, our grantmaking plans for the remainder of 2017 are clear. Our recently announced funding opportunities support the important work underway in injury prevention, positive mental health, and capacity building, and we are wrapping up current funding in healthy weight. As we finish funding across all areas of our current five-year plan, we can concentrate on assessing progress made since 2013.

While we on-board our new chief executive, we will honor existing grant investments, maintain momentum toward existing goals, and pause to refocus before committing new funds in 2018.

Secondly, operations and governance practices are in the good hands of talented staff and engaged board members who are committed to our mission to help vulnerable Wake County children. We follow clear and effective investment management processes, and our grantmaking and oversight practices are built on years of experience and careful listening.

We pride ourselves in being a learning organization. While there’s always room for improvement and adjustments to our methods, the Endowment can maintain a “steady as it goes” approach throughout the leadership transition.

Lastly, in anticipation of a new long-range plan for 2018, we have engaged the Institute for Public Health at the University of North Carolina to begin a community health assessment. The assessment is the result of a request by the Endowment board, following a planning retreat last December, for an updated view of the landscape of Wake County.

The assessment will take a fresh look at children in Wake County, what interferes with them living healthy lives, and what assets could be leveraged to support and protect them. Other funders, nonprofits, government agencies, and community members will be involved to identify where we have common ground and shared interests around the belief that all children should have the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible, no matter where they live, learn, or play.

We anticipate my successor will be on board in time to participate in these explorations and conversations. 

In short: the focus on improving the conditions that most effect vulnerable children is clear and resolute; important day-to-day work is on track and active programs are creating results; and the new CEO will be in place to guide the Endowment’s trajectory with insights from a fresh community assessment.

We are fortunate to live in a place with great good will and many resources. But too many children are at arm’s length from what they need to thrive. Being part of the effort to put those resources within reach of every child will continue to motivate the Endowment. In his will, John Rex explained the desire for his estate to be used in a way that would “most extensively promote the welfare of others.” The John Rex Endowment is a worthy representation of his 19th century altruism.

It has been a privilege to be at the table since the beginning of this 21st century interpretation of his wishes and to have the freedom to address matters that might improve the condition of others. I am grateful for every benefit any child has received from our efforts. It is a comfort to know the welfare of children will continue to be advanced through this organization.

Kevin Cain, President and CEO

The John Rex Endowment President and CEO position is posted with the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers: President and CEO