The Adrienne Shelly Foundation

Last night I went to an event for the Adrienne Shelly Foundation.  I actually was asked to get involved with this particular event by Andy Ostroy who is the Founder and Executive Director.

The reason I got involved was for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I got to know Andy through friends and him at a variety of political fundraisers.  For some reason I spoke more with Andy than Adrienne but saw her at these events too.  Her life was tragically cut short and Andy set up a foundation in her name which was smart.  It didn't mean he had to do anything with the foundation but he eventually did and everything was in place.  What he did was create a mission around the organization where the Adrienne Shelly Foundation would award scholarships and grants to a handful of women (7 the first year) who are aspiring filmmakers.  The hope being that this money would help these women be able to execute on their projects.  Not only has it done that but one filmmaker, Cynthia Wade, actually won an Oscar for her documentary Freeheld which was partly funded by the Adrienne Shelly Foundation.

With all that being said, it is really a wonderful organization with tremendous potential.  This is the second year of the event. 

As someone who has been involved with not-for profit organizations for many years, I have seen many mistakes that organizations like this make.  There isn't a not-for-profit organization that doesn't have a great idea but in the end, it is all about execution.  You can't execute without money so you have to also be clever and reach out to the right audience for funding. 

The Adrienne Shelly Foundation is an organization that I hope continues make an impact in womens lives through grant giving but with that being said, it is imperative at this point, like all organizations going into their third year, to sit back and assess what might seem obvious but isn't.  Where do we want to be in 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.  How are we going to continue raising money?  How should the organization be set up going forward so that we are a real company?  Does the event we had for the past 2 years make sense going forward?  How do we continue to reach out and keep in contact with our grantees?  How do we engage the past grantees in the future?  Are there other foundations that might support our efforts?  Will people who were there at the onset really be interested in us like they were the first year be that way in the fifth year? 

For me, it was an interesting night and a glimpse into what an incredibly smart person Adrienne was.  I hope that the people involved in this organization will be as smart as I think she would have been about really plotting out the future of the organization.  It is hard work but this mission is a good one and I'd love to see that in 5 years that they have supported 60 women in film.  That would make a serious impact which is exactly what you want.  Foundations are about who you support not about themselves.  That is the part that is not always easy. 

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