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A Year of Intention & Accomplishment

A letter from the 2021 annual report

Dear Friends,

In the last few years, the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund has evolved quickly and firmly, and I’m sure you’ll agree that our intentionality is more present and visible this year than ever before. 

An organization launched organically 28 years ago by a family who wanted to further the legacy and passions of their benefactor is now an organization prepared and determined to use philanthropic dollars to solve problems in communities and across the nation—an approach that Mr. McGowan would certainly have approved. 

A small private school changes its pedagogy to serve low-income students and maintains its 100 percent graduation rate. An ongoing clinical trial tests whether metabolic syndrome can be arrested and reversed, and remission sustained with lifestyle changes. Our 2021 grantees are hardworking problem solvers, and they represent the continuing evolution of McGowan’s philosophy and strategy.

I often hear from those in corporate America that “it must be nice to just give money away.” I am sure that philanthropy can appear this way. However, those who work in the sector know that to help people flourish is challenging. Just identifying the shape and scope of work is hard work. It takes a clear definition of the problem; a vision of the highest and best that can be achieved; an understanding of environmental factors and existing barriers; and a right-sized strategy for programming and delivery. Then there’s a commitment to honest evaluation, to learning from failure, and to adapting along the way. 

This approach—our approach—has resulted in a reduction of grants in recent years. Many nonprofits have become deeply valued partners, rather than simply grantees. And, in fact, the Fund pivoted in 2021 to become more proactive, finding partners aligned with our goals and launching comprehensive programs where applicable.

In the year ahead you will see more of these efforts as we travel to McGowan communities to better understand local problems and potential solutions. We remain grateful for our partners, especially those courageous enough to tackle the hard problems, and we look forward to exploring the possibilities with new and existing partners.


William P. McGowan, Chair

Diana K. Spencer, Executive Director