In honor of National Philanthropy Day, Beth Marcus, senior vice president for development, reflects on the many contributions of a special member of the LISC community and how her leadership is a model of great philanthropy. Through her years of work as an employee and board member, her stewardship of the Cashin Fellowship and her role as generous LISC donor, Lisa Cashin continues to be an inspiration to community development leaders, past, present and future.
Do you have someone whose tough questions you anticipate as you strive to do your best work? For me, and for many of my LISC colleagues, that person is our board vice chair, Lisa Cashin.
I inherited my first job at LISC from Lisa, who served as our chief credit officer for nineteen years before joining our board and immediately becoming our most generous individual donor. That’s an unusual scenario, and so is Lisa’s approach to philanthropy. Lisa has always been willing to give us the hardest money to raise – general operating support – because she understands our role as trusted convener of private, public, and non-profit entities, and the way our investments become force multipliers in communities across the country.
As both a donor and a board member, Lisa knows our metrics and our impact. She has toured communities from Mississippi to Minnesota to celebrate the outcome of our mission-driven investments: in Indianapolis, a hydroponic farm that produces both healthy food and jobs for local residents; in Northeast Philadelphia, a new affordable-housing complex and co-located health center with easy access to the regional train line. And she’s not just showing up. She’s taking notes and marking up the map, and above all, asking incisive questions.
As we approach our 40th year, I realize that Lisa has been a part of LISC in one form or another for more than three-quarters of our existence. But Lisa herself is not looking backward. She has her eyes on the future of LISC, and on the future of philanthropy.
“The earlier we can teach and inspire kids to be leaders the better it is for our communities,” she says. To that end, she and her husband Dick endowed the Cashin Community Development Fellowship. Closely aligned with LISC’s core strategy of building local capacity and aiding local leaders across the United States, the Cashin Fellowship enables these young people to experience the profound impact of civic engagement and community development firsthand.
Since 2007, over 100 high-school and college students have worked for a summer at LISC’s partner community development corporations in under-resourced NYC neighborhoods, taking on projects ranging from nutrition education, to tenant services and advocacy, to expanding the use of Citibikes. And of course, Lisa shows up at all their final presentations, pencil and notepad at the ready, to hear what they’ve accomplished and ask probing questions about what they’ve learned.
Most Cashin Fellows are affiliated with Prep for Prep, where Lisa is president of the board. Lisa wants them to have every opportunity that a college education can provide, including financial independence and leadership roles in their chosen professions. She also wants philanthropy to be a part of their adult lives.
Thanks to Lisa’s foresight, today’s Cashin Fellows will shape the future of philanthropy. Whatever careers they choose, they will also be showing up in the offices and boardrooms of philanthropies over the next ten, twenty, and thirty years, bringing with them Lisa’s spirit of curiosity, sustained attention, and unfailing generosity – and their own tough-minded questions. Let’s get ready to answer them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beth Marcus, Senior Vice President for Resource Development
Building on a 25-year career in community development and real estate finance, Beth leads LISC’s resource development strategy. She works closely with the President & CEO to mobilize philanthropic support for LISC's ongoing work and helps develop creative initiatives to attract new investors to community development. Beth has a B.A. from Hampshire College and a M.A. in City Planning from MIT. Despite having lost her southern accent on the streets of Boston and NYC, she is proud to hail from Atlanta.