Gwyn is known for her “Jib Jabs” that celebrate colleagues. Here’s one for her!
In the last two decades, the Foundation has evolved from a small grantmaking shop to a convener and catalyst for civic change – and behind the scenes of it all has been Gwyn Gallagher. A longtime Cambridgeport resident and our director of grantmaking and operations, Gwyn steps down this week to focus on family after administering thousands of grants to Cambridge’s nonprofit sector during her 23 years with the Foundation.
“Gwyn’s the one who has quietly, graciously put in long nights to make sure $1.2 million goes to 150 community nonprofits each year,” said Lori Lander, co-chair of our Programs Committee, who has worked closely with Gwyn on CCF grantmaking.
Lori recalled countless Zoom meetings in 2020 for our COVID-19 Emergency Fund allocations, an intense process of organizing a high-volume of grant requests that was orchestrated almost entirely by Gwyn. “It was funny,” Lori mused, “because we never saw her face on video! And that’s Gwyn; she does it all and doesn’t look to be seen or get credit.”
“The essence of CCF”
Gwyn first joined the Foundation as part of a two-person team with former Executive Director Bob Hurlbut. Over her tenure, she has been involved in nearly everything the Foundation does – from back-of-house administration and data gathering to supervising interns to building nonprofit relationships and spearheading grantmaking from a myriad of funds. And as Bob attests, she took on each task with a uniquely high level of thought, care, and dedication.
“She had a job to do, but she always did it well beyond what was being asked – put in more time, thought about the men and women who were doing the work, and had a great ability to spot people in Cambridge doing good things,” Bob shared.
While it’s rare for one staff person to leave as indelible a mark as shaping an organization’s identity, that’s precisely what Gwyn has done. “Gwyn gave the Foundation a real personality: embodying service above self,” Bob said.
Our president, Geeta Pradhan, echoed the sentiment. “Gwyn, you are the essence of CCF – your compassion, kindness, and thoughtfulness have infused the organization with these values, your commitment to our nonprofits, and your sense of humor will continue to inspire and energize our team,” she said.
Putting people first
As the Foundation underwent leadership transitions, from changing board chairs to Geeta’s succession of Bob, Gwyn acted as a steadfast connection for our many nonprofit partners.
“She helped the Foundation reach new heights because she was holding the ladder,” said Rev. Lorraine Thornhill, co-chair of our Programs Committee. “An organization can’t go to the next level without someone keeping the ladder from shaking, and Gwyn has been excellent, tireless, and steady.”
In many ways, Gwyn held a ladder for the Foundation’s nonprofit partners, too – understanding their goals and needs, seeking ways to lift them up, and advocating for their support. Ben Clark, executive director of Enroot, a nonprofit serving immigrant students in Cambridge, spoke of Gwyn as a “bedrock” of CCF and an “endlessly generous” resource for the nonprofit community.
“What I appreciate most is her characteristic humility and generosity, always eager to help out and carry through – there were no limits to the lengths she would go to make your load lighter or your work better,” Ben said.
In the past year, Gwyn has also guided much of the Foundation’s COVID-19 relief work, including the administration of our emergency grantmaking to nearly 1,500 people in need and funding of more than 370 nonprofits.
Gwyn’s community impact will continue
For Gwyn, it’s been a meaningful journey serving the city she loves. “Working at the Foundation, you have the opportunity to meet so many incredible and dedicated people with the good of the community in their hearts. You see their work and feel inspired,” she shared.
Gwyn, too, is one of these incredible people and we’re honored to carry on the work she’s helped build from the ground up.
“To Gwyn, I send a huge, heartfelt thanks,” Board Chair Rick Harriman said. “The Foundation has been enriched by your compassionate, thoughtful community focus. We are fortunate to have had Gwyn’s generous spirit infuse our work for these many years. Now, her tireless support of Cambridge nonprofits will continue through the Gwyn Gallagher Fund for Cambridge.”
In celebration of Gwyn’s contributions, we’ve created The Gwyn Gallagher Fund for Cambridge, an endowed, donor advised fund at the Cambridge Community Foundation. The Foundation is seeding the Fund with a $10,000 gift in recognition of her two-plus decades of service to the community as grantmaker and loyal partner. The Fund will enable Gwyn to continue to support local organizations close to her heart, through annual allocations determined at her discretion. We invite those who’ve been inspired by Gwyn to join us in making a donation to her Fund. Given her knowledge of the nonprofit sector and her fierce commitment to Cambridge, she has much to offer through her own donor-advised fund grantmaking.