By Canisha Bell
Isaiah M. Oliver, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF) has announced his resignation effective July 28, 2023. Oliver, his wife Shay and the couple’s four children Zaiah, Carrington, Chelyn and Isaiah II are moving to Jacksonville, Florida where he has accepted the position of president of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, according to a press release from the CFGF.
A Flint native and 1999 graduate of Flint Northwestern High School, Oliver, the youngest and first African-American leader of CFGF, has served in the community foundation’s leadership role since 2017. Over the past six years he has led the development of a five-year strategic plan, asset growth, staff expansion, and a vision that centers equity in all of the foundation’s work. Assets under management grew under Oliver’s leadership, from $254 million in 2017 to $283 million at the end of 2022.
“The community foundation hit a home run when Isaiah accepted the position of president and CEO of CFGF,” said Mark Piper, chair of the CFGF Board of Trustees. “Having grown up in Genesee County and serving in the community in various capacities prior to accepting the position, Isaiah had an innate understanding of the strengths and needs of the community. His amicable demeanor and tireless energy allowed him to make partnerships locally and nationally that helped bring resources and recognition to the area, that we may not have received otherwise.
“His ability to expand, develop, and support the terrific staff at the community foundation has been essential to supporting the growth that we have experienced during Isaiah’s tenure,” Piper continued. “Most importantly, Isaiah gave leadership to centering equity, a lasting legacy we will continue to preserve.”
Oliver came to lead the CFGF during the height of the Flint water crisis. According to the press release, Oliver is credited to have been able to gather diverse groups together and build trust in new partnerships broadening the foundation’s community impact. During his leadership of CFGF he completed the development and operationalization of Educare Flint, a premiere early childhood education center that serves 220 children.
“We realized through the water crisis that charity isn’t enough to fix all the issues that were facing our community,” Oliver said. “With authentic community engagement and an ear to hear them, we were able to marshal resources beyond philanthropy for greater impact.”
He leveraged the foundation’s experience within the Flint water crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic evolved, creating a taskforce on racial inequities that laid bare the inequities that were always present. Bringing partners together, he lifted up local voices as a way to deepen the community’s understanding of the health inequities in cities like Flint. With a frank and honest style, Oliver brought national attention to the foundation’s work and new dollars for immediate impact from national funders like the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Sony Global Justice Fund.
“Trust takes time. We are living into listening closely, deeply engaging folks that don’t have access to the table,” Oliver says. “It’s about co-creating a future where we can all contribute to it together.”
Oliver established the Isaiah and Shay Oliver Community Leadership Fund at CFGF to provide more resources for innovative programs reflective of the community’s voice.
“I have spent my career in Flint and am confidently closing this chapter. I look forward to occupying a new vantage point to serve and sacrifice, leveraging philanthropy to secure generational change for families,” Oliver said. “I remain grateful for my time as a champion for Flint and progress towards a bold and ambitious vision for my hometown. It has been an honor to partner with so many individuals and organizations to achieve equitable results on behalf of the community we serve.”
“Love is never lost, so our paths will continue to cross. Thank you, Flint. Because of you, I am who I am today.” Oliver concluded in an open letter to Flint which can be found on the foundation’s website.
Over the next three months Oliver will support the foundation through the leadership transition. Piper and the CFGF Executive Committee will lead a search committee to identify the foundation’s new president and CEO.
EVM reporter Canisha Bell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org